Non-assent of opposition bills not political, PPP says

The PPP is standing by the President Donald Ramotar’s refusal to assent to two opposition bills, while questioning APNU’s failure to move to the courts if it believes he has acted illegally.

“The President’s reasons for withholding his assent are not political in nature; instead his reasons as listed in his letter to the Speaker, are all grounded in the Constitution itself. The President has a duty to ensure that the Constitution is not violated,” the party said in a press statement yesterday, in response to recent comments by APNU leader Da

vid Granger, who told Stabroek News that the government was taking a “big political risk” by ignoring the will of the majority.

Granger has written to Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman requesting a meeting on government’s refusal to act on a slew of motions and two bills passed by the opposition in the National Assembly during 2012 and 2013.

“We cannot go on like this for five years,” he said, while acknowledging that there is very little that the APNU could do to force government to act but noting that the executive has an obligation to heed to resolutions passed by the legislature. “The law is very clear and we could hold government in default. They will have to accept the consequences. [Sooner or later] people will reach their breaking point,” he added.

Reacting to Granger’s comments yesterday, the PPP said the issues have been raised in the past and have effectively been addressed by government.

“The aspects of where the opposition bills collide with the Constitution and existing laws have been fully ventilated,” it said, while noting that not every bill which passes through the National Assembly results in an automatic assent by the President.

“Our Constitution resides in the President a latitudinal power of discretion as to whether he will assent or not. The President after careful consideration has decided that he will not assent, and he has complied with the procedure that the Constitution outlines when he decides to withhold his assent,” the party noted.

“The party supports the President in standing up against these threats by APNU which are purely designed to bully the Head of State into passing unconstitutional motions,” it added.

In May, President Ramotar informed Trotman that he had withheld assent to the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill and the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Bill 2012, saying both of the bills were unconstitutional.

The PPP yesterday also questioned why APNU has it not approached the High Court after making threats to do just that since May this year at one of its press conferences, if it believes that the law is on its side. “The PPP is convinced that rather than grandstand and create all manner of political illusion to distract from their failings, APNU needs to man up and play a meaningful and responsible role in the development of our nation,” it further said.

The PPP’s statement did not address the numerous motions passed by the opposition.

In a comment to Stabroek News, former auditor general Anand Goolsarran had noted that while the Constitution provides for the President to return a bill to Parliament within 21 days, indicating his reason for not supporting it, motions do not require an assent from the President. “…These are problems which we face… a motion adopted by the National Assembly and the President refuses to act,” he said. “What should Parliament do? Somebody has to go to the court,” he added.

Goolsarran, who is President of Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc, said that such a situation does not bode well for transparency and accountability of the executive towards Parliament.

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