In wake of APNU’s announced plans to contest the court’s decision to strike out Opposition Leader David Granger and Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh as defendants in the budget cuts case, PPP MP and Attorney General Anil Nandlall has accused the opposition of attempting to stall a final ruling.
At a PPP news conference yesterday, Nandlall noted that the opposition parties have also stated that they intend to pursue legal action over President Donald Ramotar’s rejection of the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill 2012 and the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Bill 2012 but months have passed and there has been no action. He said the opposition is utilising press conferences and parliament to announce its intentions but has not filed any legal motions to act upon them, thereby showcasing a history of stalling tactics.
Nandlall said that the decision to remove both Granger and Singh as defendants in the matter should be celebrated and instead APNU is using it as a stalling tactic. He said the decision was aimed at finding a speedy resolution to the matter as the proceedings of the case took a turn to review the more substantive matters.
According to Nandlall, a final ruling by acting Chief Justice Ian Chang is to “settle the fundamental question whether the opposition has the power at law or under the constitution to reduce national estimates presented by the executives in the National Assembly.”
He emphasised that it is imperative to having a solid base for any future debate on the opposition’s legal right to use its majority in the National Assembly to cut the budget.
Nandlall said the Chief Justice’s preliminary ruling back in July 2012, which stated that the National Assembly did not have the power to reduce the budget, was still binding and it did not matter that it was not a final ruling. The issue is about “competent jurisdiction,” he argued, adding that the ruling was clear and definitive.
He said while cut allocations were restored, there would have been a number of employees and “a number of constitutional agencies of paramount importance to our country that would have been affected as a result of lack of financing.”
Last week, APNU MP Basil Williams stated that the Chief Justice’s decision to remove Granger as a defendant was calculated to prevent him from being heard on the matter. He also contended that the moved showed a pre-emptive decision that would prevent the cross-examination of evidence by Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon on his “doom and gloom statement which he swore in his affidavit would follow the budget cuts.”
Williams noted that as head of the opposition, Granger had to be heard on these matters and to prevent him from speaking would be allowing the government to hide behind “dubious legal positions.”
Last year, the combined opposition cut the government’s proposed $192 billion budget by $21 billion after they felt the government did not provide adequate explanations of planned allocations. The government sought to have the actions deemed unconstitutional by way of a motion brought by Nandlall.