Chase underlines proportionality point in committees case

Senior Counsel Ashton Chase yesterday argued that the seats on the parliamentary committees must reflect the proportionality of the polls.

Chase, during the hearing of the Constitutional Motion filed by Attorney General Anil Nandlall to challenge the numerical make up of the committees, said that the government’s proposed proportion was five seats to the PPP, four to A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and one to the Alliance For Change (AFC).

However, he submitted to the court the opposition sought four for APNU, one for AFC and four to the PPP/C.

At this point of his argument Chief Justice Ian Chang who is hearing the case, interjected questioning why the figure could not be 9 or 10 or even 20 or 15. Further Justice Chang asked why it could not be 65, the number of members in the National Assembly which would allow for better proportionality.

Ashton Chase

Chase responded that the numerical make up is based on how each party performed at the polls.

The Senior Counsel in backing up Nandlall’s arguments stressed that the motion was properly filed and cited several legal authorities to try to prove his point. Turning his attention to the other side’s arguments that the AG as a representative of the State was filing a motion against another branch of the State – Parliament, he said that none of the two respondents named are representatives of the State.

Chase even went as far as to define the term opposition leader for the court. He said that David Granger according to the affidavit was named as leader of the list of candidates of APNU as well as Leader of the Opposition while Raphael Trotman was named as the leader of the list of candidates of the AFC as well as Speaker of the National Assembly.

The Senior Counsel went on to argue that there is no issue with the AG instituting proceedings similar to what is before the court as there is nothing in the constitution that prohibits him.
He quoted a section of the constitution, which according to him outlines what the AG can and cannot do.

According to the motion filed earlier this month, Nandlall is seeking a declaration that all standing committees and special select committees of the National Assembly of the 10th Parliament “are to be constituted in proportion” to the number of seats which each political party was allocated in the National Assembly based on the elections results.

“The composition of the Committee of Selection is violative of the principle of proportionality as contemplated by the Constitution since with this configuration the PPP/C with 32 seats has the same representation in the committee with APNU which only secured 26 seats. Therefore the PPP/C has only 44.44 percent of the representation with 32 seats and APNU has the same 44.44 percent representation, but with only 26 seats, leading to a disproportionality of almost five seats,” he argued.

He is also seeking a declaration that the composition of the Committee of Selection done by elections – PPP/C, four; APNU, four and AFC, one – is a violation of the “principle of proportionality as contemplated by Articles 60 and 160 of the constitution and the provisions of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act No. 15 of 2000 and accordingly, unconstitutional, unlawful, null, void and of no effect.”

He is additionally asking the court for orders setting aside, revoking, cancelling or annulling the composition of the committee on the grounds that it was in breach of the Constitution and a breach of the provisions of the Elections Laws (Amendment) and further directing the respondents and their servants/agents to constitute all Standing Com-mittees and Sectoral Commit-tees and every other Commit-tee of the 10th Parliament, whose composition are not expressly set out in the Constitution, with due regard to and in compliance with the principle of proportionality.

The case continues on Thursday.

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