Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman this afternoon ruled that the National Assembly has the power to amend the budgetary allocations stating that the House cannot be bound by a preliminary ruling of the High Court that stated the contrary.
Trotman, who convened parliament almost an hour after the 2pm scheduled start date, said that if the National Assembly can only approve or disapprove the budget then there is no need to go through the estimates of expenditure as has been argued as this would just be a minute’s work.
The historic ruling, which came as a result of the country entering ‘uncharted’ waters following the PPP/C’s failing to get the majority in the House following the 2011 election, was greeted with desk thumping from members of the Opposition while those on the Government side sat with stony faces.
The Speaker said the motion by AFC’s leader Khemraj Ramjattan, which proposes a $35B cut from the $208B budget, was therefore properly before the House. He had heard almost five hours of arguments for and against the motion last night.
According to Trotman following the amendments, Finance Minister Ashni Singh has two options: accept the amendments in the estimates report that the Government has rejected the amendments and see it as a vote of no confidence in the administration.
The Government had strongly relied on last year’s preliminary ruling by the acting Chief Justice Ian Chang that the National Assembly had a right to pass the budget or reject it. But Trotman said there is no compulsion or duty on the House to accept any ruling by the High Court.
He said that National Assembly has the powers to amend any bill that comes to the House.
Opposition Leader David Granger described the ruling as a “landmark ruling” and said that the opposition parties are satisfied with it. Ramjattan expressed the hope that the government will accept the ruling and not “hustle across to the High Court.”
Prime Minister Sam Hinds said that the budget is the best for the country and the Government stands by it. He however added that the government respects the ruling.