With government facing substantial cuts to the 2013 national budget, Attorney-General Anil Nandlall on Saturday reiterated that the opposition has no power to cut, alter or amend the estimates presented by the Finance Minister and doing so demonstrates their “naked and vulgar” disregard for the Constitution.
Consideration of estimates for the 2013 budget is scheduled to commence at 2pm today when the National Assembly resolves itself into the Committee of Supply. Prior to this, a 9am meeting between the government and the opposition at the Office of the President has been scheduled in a last minute attempt to stave off the proposed cuts. Should no agreement be reached, it is likely that the joint opposition will use their one-seat majority to effect cuts to the $208.8 billion budget.
The main opposition, APNU has signalled its intention to do so should no satisfactory answers be provided on several areas of concern. The AFC in two Notice Papers that have been circulated to Members of Parliament, has signalled its intention to cut almost $39 billion from the budget, including $1.734 billion from the Guyana Elections Commission, $1.255 billion from the Office of the President inclusive of allocations for NCN and GINA and $1 billion earmarked for the completion of the Amaila falls road.
Nandlall, who is also the Minister of Legal Affairs, in a statement on Saturday, said that the letter and spirit of the Constitution, forbids the National Assembly from reducing or amending the estimates presented by the Minister of Finance for the year 2013 while the Chief Justice has also interpreted the relevant constitutional provisions and “confirmed” that the opposition has no power under the Constitution to reduce or amend these estimates. Despite this, the joint opposition has signalled their intention to do so, he said.
“In so doing, the joint Opposition are demonstrating to the world their naked and vulgar disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law and the democratic norms and tradition of Parliament. They are placing the highest law making authority of this land in conflict with the rule of law and the Constitution. They are placing this nation firmly on that precarious highway to anarchy, Nandlall said.
The opposition had cut the budget last year and following this, Nandlall had moved to the courts and Chief Justice Ian Chang in an interim ruling said that the National Assembly did not have the power to cut the budget but the court could not restore the funding sought by government, except for allocations to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) which is a constitutional agency and entitled to draw directly from the Consolidated Fund.
Nandlall referred to several points in the ruling and adverted to the Constitutional provisions to make his argument that the joint opposition has no power to cut, alter or amend the estimates presented by the Finance Minister.
“Yet, in an indecent disregard for the constitutional provisions and the Chief Justice’s guidance, the Opposition insist that they will cut the budget estimates,” Nandlall said.
He pointed out that since June 2012, when the Judgment was handed down, not a single step was taken by the 14 lawyers who appeared for the Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman and Leader of the Opposition, David Granger to appeal, set aside or challenge the ruling in any form or fashion.
“Of course, such a challenge could have taken this matter all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice. They did nothing. The argument that this is a preliminary ruling and therefore not binding, is absolutely puerile and vexatious. A first year law student and most laymen would know that the ruling of a court is binding until and unless it reversed or set aside,” Nandlall said.
“A ruling of a court neither loses its potency nor its efficacy because it is preliminary. Indeed, almost every injunction granted is preliminary.
Can anyone, sanely, argue that such injunctions are not binding,” he said. “When a Parliament deliberately violates its own Constitution and refuses to obey its own laws, it marks the beginning of a swift journey to anarchy and the destruction of any country,” the AG added.