Assent countdown for local government bills still to begin

The 21-day timeframe in which President Donald Ramotar is constitutionally required to  indicate his intention or lack thereof to assent to the four local government bills has not yet lapsed as he was still to receive any of the bills up to last Friday .

The bills—the Local Government Commission Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill and the Fiscal Transfers Bill–were passed by the National Assembly on August 7, after which Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs and his staff, together with the Parliamentary Counsel, started preparing them to be sent to the Attorney General’s Chambers to receive their assent certificates.

The bills, up to last Friday, remained with the AG’s Chambers. Stabroek News was unable the ascertain if the bills are today with the President since calls to Isaacs, AG Anil Nandlall, Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira and Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon went unanswered.

Though the preparation for each bill varied, all four bills were with the AG’s Chambers by the third week in August. Today marks the 27th day since the bills have been passed and many are of the opinion that the President has violated requirements as it relates to the signing of the bills. This is not so. In fact, the 21-day countdown will not commence until the bills, having been received by the Clerk from the AG’s chambers, are sent off to the President’s office for his assent.

This practice has drawn criticism from both the main opposition APNU and the AFC. Both parties are of the opinion that the bills, having been passed in the National Assembly, ought to be sent directly to the President after they are properly prepared by the Clerk.

Isaacs had said that this procedure had been the norm ever since and he had just continued it.

He nevertheless sought legal counsel and said he has been advised to send government bills to the AG’s Chambers before sending them to the President. Opposition bills however, he said, will be sent directly to the President.

The opposition, nevertheless, has expressed optimism that the President will sign the bills once they reach his desk. The assent of the bills is essential to the holding of local government elections with key governance reforms.

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