Greenidge concerned at silence on fate of bills

APNU spokesman on Finance Carl Greenidge says that it is of concern that there is no word on whether or not President Donald Ramotar has assented to two opposition-piloted bills passed by the National Assembly despite the expiration of the 21-day deadline during which he can either assent to or reject the bills.

Greenidge told the Sunday Stabroek yesterday that he had inquired about the bills but the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs signaled nothing to him and he believes that the bills have not been sent back to Parliament Office as yet by the Office of the President. Greenidge said that he will have to inquire further this week noting that the focus was on the budget debate over the last week.

He said that he will also have to check with legal officers to see what should happen given that the deadline has passed.

The bills, which were laid in the House by Greenidge, are the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill and the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Bill 2012.

Both bills were strongly objected to by the ruling party during their passage in the National Assembly and the government parliamentarians voted against them.
Article 170 (2) of the Constitution requires that the president, who is part of Parliament, assent to bills presented to him following passage in the National Assembly.

This article also states that where the president withholds his assent, he must return the bill to the Speaker within 21 days with a message stating the reasons for withholding his assent.

The president has said that he would not assent to any bill passed by the opposition unless it is with passed with the full agreement of the executive and the full involvement of the executive.

Earlier, Greenidge told Stabroek News that Isaacs wrote him on March 7th informing him that both bills were submitted on the 25th of February for the President’s consideration. Isaacs’ letter was in response to one by Greenidge who last month had urged the relocation of the Parliamentary Counsel from the chambers of the Attorney General and had also echoed criticisms that sending bills and other material to the Attorney General for advice after approval by the National Assembly is inappropriate. “It is neither a legal nor constitutional requirement,” he had said.

Recently, in a ruling that lifted a gag on Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee speaking in the National Assembly, Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman said that the president cannot withhold his assent for bills passed by the National Assembly except as set out in the Constitution.

“In Guyana, the presidency and National Assembly are creatures of the Constitution.

Neither can relate with each other outside of the manner prescribed within the Constitution.

For that reason, the National Assembly cannot refuse to entertain a member who is appointed by the executive president as a minister except as permitted by the Constitution.

In the same way that the executive president cannot withhold his assent for bills passed by the National Assembly except as set out in the Constitution, which is supreme,” he said in the ruling.

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