APNU yesterday said it believes National Assembly Clerk Sherlock Isaacs has breached his duty and responsibility by sending the four recently passed local government bills to the Attorney General’s (AGs) Chambers before sending them to President Donald Ramotar but Isaacs says his decision is justified.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Isaacs said that after serving with the National Assembly for 45 years
he has grown tired of the constant badgering he suffers every time such a situation arises ad says he is desirous of resigning.
The bills – The Local Government (Amendment) Bill, the Local Government Commission Bill, the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill and the Fiscal Transfers Bill – were passed on August 7th and were sent to the Chambers of AG Anil Nandlall after amendments made to some of the bills during that sitting were inserted by members of Isaacs’ staff.
The Clerk said that though in previous times he had sent such bills to the AG’s chambers as a matter of practice, his decision on this occasion was informed by legal advice sought from a non-political legal practitioner.
Further justifying his decision to send the Bills to the AG’s office before submitting them to the president, Isaacs, in a response letter to the Leader of the Opposition, David Granger said that “there were a number of complex amendments which required a legally-trained person to insert in the Bills after they were approved by the National Assembly.”
Isaacs said that if his own office was in possession of such a “legal draftsman” who could give such assurances, he would not be inclined to send bills to the AG before submitting them to the president.
Despite these explanations, APNU maintains that the bills ought to have been sent to the president having been passed.
While noting that Article 170 (2) of Guyana’s constitution does not prescribe who must present the bills to the president, the party noted Standing Order (SO) 67 of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly requires that “Every Bill passed by the National Assembly shall remain in the custody of the Clerk who shall, subject to Article 165 of the Constitution, at the earliest opportunity, submit the Bill to the president for his or her assent.”
APNU argues that the words “shall remain in the custody of the Clerk” are mandatory, and also noted that bills have not been sent to the president despite the demand that it be sent off “at the earliest opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Isaacs is not all pleased that APNU has made such statements, he says, especially since they did not contact him to learn why he had taken the actions they are chastising him for.
Fed up of such occurrences, Isaacs yesterday expressed his desire to leave the position of Clerk of the National Assembly, and shared that he is in the process of seeking the president’s approval to do such. He said that he made an attempt to take this action earlier in the year but could not as the president did not give his approval.
To leave the office, without the president’s approval would mean that he would not qualify for benefits, and after serving for 45 years, Isaacs is not keen on having this happen, despite his frustration and haste to leave.
Earlier this year there was strenuous public debate over whether bills should be sent to the Attorney General first before being sent to the President.
Attorney General Nandlall had argued that it was customary that bills be sent to the AG’s Chambers for an assent certificate. Commentator Christopher Ram and others had hotly disputed this.
The dilemma raised the point again for parliament to have its own legal counsel. This need had been identified nearly two years ago when the AG had made it clear that opposition MPs could not rely on his chambers for legal advice on bills etc. There still has not been any move to provide Parliament with its own legal counsel.
The opposition see the detaining of controversial bills by the AG’s Chambers as a delay tactic.
Two bills which had been piloted by the opposition-controlled Parliament were delayed for months between Parliament Office and the AG’s Chambers before being sent to the President. The President then said he would not be signing them as they were unconstitutional.
There is great interest in the four local government bills as they are meant to pave the way for local government elections which were last held in 1994.