AG renews bid to overrule Speaker on Rohee

Attorney-General Anil Nandlall yesterday resumed his legal battle for acting Chief Justice Ian Chang to quash the decision of Speaker Raphael Trotman to prevent Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee from speaking as minister in the National Assembly and grant an order to ensure he enjoys his constitutional right to speak.

Nandlall was at the time making further arguments on his motion challenging Trotman’s decision to limit Rohee’s participation in the National Assembly, pending the determination of the enforceability of a motion seeking to have the minister gagged.

Clement Rohee
Clement Rohee

Justice Chang last month made a preliminary ruling that Rohee as an elected member has a right to speak in the National Assembly although but the ruling did not appear to be enforceable by the court.

“…Even though the issue as to whether Mr Rohee as an elected member of the National Assembly has a constitutional right to speak in the National Assembly (irrespective of the expression of no confidence in him as Minister of Home Affairs) is justiciable, the right itself (assuming it exists) appears to be of such a nature as to be unenforceable by the court,” he had noted in the preliminary ruling.

The court ruling appeared to have left the question of Rohee’s speaking to the Speaker of the National Assembly and the procedures of the House and Trotman has since stated that Parliament was not bound by the ruling. However, he has since allowed Rohee to address the National Assembly, but said any further speeches will be decided on a case-by-case basis until the controversy is finally resolved.

The lawyers are now presenting arguments for the Chief Justice to make a substantive ruling, although Justice Chang had indicated in his ruling that the court had found it fit and necessary to make “final and definitive” pronouncements on questions of law that may have the effect of making it unnecessary for the parties to proceed to a hearing of Nandlall’s substantive motion..

“I am asking the court to grant a remedy that will protect the member’s right to speak in the National Assembly,” Nandlall told the court.

According to Nandlall, Rohee has a right to speak in accordance with the ruling of the court but attorney-at-law Basil Williams, who appears for Opposition Leader David Granger in the case, objected to this line of argument, pointing out that the court had already ruled and had also struck out most of the reliefs sought by him.

“You rest assured I am not the Appeal Court,” Justice Chang said in response.

In his submissions, Senior Counsel Ashton Chase, who appears with Nandlall for the state, spoke about the process through which Rohee became minister and the constitutional provision for his removal and the fact that the National Assembly is bound by constitutional provisions. He pointed out that Rohee was duly and constitutionally-appointed by the President and there are provisions under the constitution that which deals with how a minister could be removed from office.

He pointed out that the motion brought in Parliament and the ruling by the Speaker prevents Rohee from performing his duties as minister in Parliament, since it denies him the right to bring any bills or motion. In effect, Chase said, the motion and ruling is saying to Rohee “Your term has ended.”

During Chase’s submissions, Justice Chang interjected that Rohee is Minister of Home Affairs when he is at the ministry but when he is in the National Assembly he is a Member of Parliament.

“But he has a right to speak,” Chase responded and the Chief Justice pointed out that in his preliminary ruling he had indicated that Member of Parliament Rohee can speak.

Justice Chang’s ruling stated “… it is the view of this court that Mr Rohee’s right to speak in the National Assembly derives from his office as a member of the National Assembly and not from his office as an executive minister. This, his right as an elected member of the National Assembly must be concomitant with his constitutional duty to speak for and to represent his electors in the National Assembly who, in turn, have a concomitant right to be represented.”

The matter continues on February 18.

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