The four local government bills passed by the National Assembly last month remain with the Chambers of the Attorney General (AG), where they have been sent for assent certification, National Assembly Clerk Sherlock Isaacs says.
AG Anil Nandlall did not return calls made to him but when asked about the status of the bills in a previous interview, he told Stabroek News that they were being handled by his Chambers and that he had no direct involvement in their preparation.
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 Isaacs and his staff, together with the Parliamentary Counsel, sent them to the AG’s Chambers for assent certification.
Isaacs said that the bills are currently out of his hands but noted that once the AG’s Chambers concludes that the bills have been properly prepared, they will be issued assent certificates and sent back to his office.
Upon receiving the bills and certificates, Isaacs will then be required to write President Donald Ramotar through the Head of the Presidential Secretariat Roger Luncheon indicating that the bills and accompanying certificates have been issued and are ready to be uplifted.
Once the president receives the bills, Article 170 (2) and (3) of the constitution requires him to “signify that he assents or that he withholds assent. Where the president withholds his assent to a bill he shall return it to the speaker within 21 days of the date when it was presented to him for assent with a message stating the reasons why he has withheld his assent.”
If he refuses to assent and the bills are returned, they can be returned to the president within six months of being returned to the speaker. This, however, has to be done via a motion supported by at least two-thirds of the House. Once the House resolves that the bills be returned to the president, he has 21 days in which to assent, “unless he sooner dissolves parliament.”
Since he has not yet received the bills, the twenty-one day timeframe in which he is to indicate his position on the bills has not commenced, although the opposition parties and Isaacs have expressed optimism that he will give his assent. This is due to the fact, Isaacs said, that despite residual contentions, there was consensus on the passing of all four bills.
The Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) is currently awaiting word from Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud to make the necessary preparations for the long overdue elections, which were last held in 1994.
Gecom officials have indicated that elections can be run off in as little as six months or less once Persaud gives the go ahead. However, all of these steps depend on the president assenting to the bills.