Opposition coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) said on Friday that President Donald Ramotar violated the spirit of the Constitution when he refused to sign two bills.
“President Ramotar’s actions have precipitated a constitutional crisis, which could result in him losing his job at National Elections. His decisions to withhold assent to the two bills can also be challenged in court,” said APNU’s Shadow Attorney General Basil Williams.
Last week, the President wrote to Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman formally notifying him that he has withheld his assent to the Fiscal Manage-ment and Accounta-bility (Amendment) Bill 2012 and the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Bill 2012 passed via the opposition’s one-seat majority.
The President said that both of the bills were unconstitutional.
At APNU’s press conference last week, Williams ex-pressed his party’s disappointment in the president’s action and informed that they will be analysing, when they meet as a group, possible solutions in addressing his recent move.
“He is head of State, Head of Government and an arm of the Parliament of Guyana. He has, therefore, a prior and perpetual retainer on behalf of the truth of justice. President Ramotar has descended into the political arena, where the dust of the combatants has gotten into his eyes and clouded his vision,” Williams said.
“In exercising his discretion to withhold his assent to the said Bills, under Article 170(3) of our constitution, President Ramotar has done so injudiciously,” he added.
He pointed out that the first violation, which APNU views as “blatant disregard for the Constitution” was not returning the bills in the stipulated 21days period. Further he said that with rejection of the bills should also come with reasons for the decision.
The President had stated that he had only received the bills on May 3 and had given reasons for his decision.
With regard to the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill passed on January 10, 2013, the President said that this Bill was violative of several articles of the Constitution.
“Please be informed that I hereby withhold my assent to the Bill at caption pursuant to Article 170 (3) of the Constitution and I set out hereunder my reasons for so doing: (i) The Bill is in violation of Article 171 (2) of the Constitution Cap. 1:01; it cannot be introduced into the National Assembly by a private member. It can only be introduced with the consent of the Cabinet signified by a Minister; ii) Section 82 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, Cap. 73:02, states that the Minister may, by Order, amend the Schedule; it is therefore, wrong to amend the Schedule by an Act of Parliament,” the President wrote in his letter.
“In my opinion, the Bill is violative of the Constitution and by virtue of Article 8 of the Constitution, is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect,” he went on to state.
On why he withheld assent to the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Bill 2012 passed on January 25, 2013, Ramotar said this Bill “takes away the vested rights and it is a denial of a legitimate expectation.”
Williams explained that the bills could only be presented to the President again within six months of being returned but stated that this seemed like a stalemate option as it has to be supported by a two-thirds majority of the parliament.