A Party for National Unity (APNU) remains unconvinced that bills passed by the National Assembly should be sent to the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Chambers for vetting despite the insistence by Clerk Sherlock Isaacs that his decision is informed by Legal Counsel.
Last week, Isaacs told Stabroek News that the four local government bills passed during last week’s National Assembly sitting – the Municipal and district Council’s Bill, the Fiscal Transfers Bill, the Local Government Commission Bill, and the Local Government (Amendment) Bill – would be sent to the Chambers of AG Anil Nandlall for scrutiny and to receive their accent certificates.
The Hydro Electric Power (Amendment) Bill was also passed last week, and Isaacs has indicated that all five bills are currently at the AG’s Chambers awaiting their assent certificates.
The Clerk took similar actions last year when he sent two opposition bills, passed by the joint opposition, to the AG before they were sent to the President for him to give his assent. The bills spent some time at the AG’s Chambers before they were sent to the president, who eventually refused to sign them.
Isaacs, who came under much criticism last year for this practice, said he used this procedure because it was the way he knew things to be done.
In an effort to make a more guided decision this time around, however, the Clerk sought and obtained legal counsel from a prominent lawyer, whom he assured Stabroek News, operates outside the political realm.
The lawyer, according to Isaacs, advised him that because they were presented by the government, the bills passed last week ought to be sent to the AG’s office before being sent to the president.
However APNU leader David Granger, during a press conference yesterday, declared that the party is still in opposition to sending bills passed by the National Assembly to the AG for scrutiny before sending them to the president.
As he has done before, Granger made clear his party’s conviction that all bills passed by the National Assembly should be sent straight to the president to be assented to, and he rejected that there is need for the AG to give any more input, especially since he is unable to make any changes to the content of the documents.
This confusion would not occur, posited APNU MP Winston Felix, if the Parliament Office had its own Parliamentary Counsel.
APNU MP Debra Backer, who shared Granger’s and Felix’s view, added that despite this process, the President has 21 days to make a decision on whether or not he will assent to the Bills.
She said though, that because the government played a role in the passing of all the bills deliberated on last week “we (APNU) are confident and see no reason that they should not assent to the Acts.”
Backer, further giving reasons for the president to assent to the bills, said that the government has expressed confidence in their chances of winning local government elections once it is held. As such, she said, it should have no reason for wanting to delay the elections, which would be the case if the president withheld his assent.