A minority in the legislature cannot adjourn it

Dear Editor,

Stabroek News’ report titled ‘Gov’t puts hold on local gov’t bills’ (July 26) begs the constitutional question of whether an executive (government) can constitutionally, fairly, justly and democratically adjourn the legislative arm of the state when that executive does not possess the majority in the legislature.

In true separation of powers fashion, the legislature should and must operate independently and apart from the executive.

The capability to adjourn the legislature naturally resides with the exercise of the majority within that body, whoever is in control of that majority, whether government or opposition. The very notion of the minority within the legislative arm strong-arming the business of the legislature is democratically dooming, undermines the rule of law, subverts the separation of powers doctrine and denigrates fairness, justice and proportionality.

To allow this to occur would be to strangle the voice of the people as expressed by the legislature.

That any minority within the Parliament could shut down Parliament while the majority is rendered impotent is fraught with danger. That this could occur on the issue of the democratic cornerstone of local government elections, the very lifeblood of democratic expression in a country wrapped up in despotism, is truly frightening.

No legal, democratic, fairness, justice or equitable doctrine could justify this state of affairs. A minority cannot railroad and deny the legislative thrust of a nation in this fashion. Taken to its extreme, the PPP minority executive could permanently adjourn Parliament using these nefarious tactics.

Because our constitution allows for exactly what happened on November 28, 2011 to occur, that same constitution has similarly allowed for the opposition to control the legislature and it further denies the minority the right to control the affairs of the legislature.

Democracy in its purest form dictates that the majority in the legislature controls the legislature. If the majority rejects the attempt at adjournment of the minority, it is entirely within its right to do so.

Article 165 of the Constitution states “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the National Assembly may regulate its own procedure and may make rules for that purpose.”

It is time the National Assembly use whatever mechanisms are available to it such as private members bills to pass the amended local government election laws. It could also amend its own internal rules to prevent a minority of Parliament from exercising the power to adjourn.

Every attempt to adjourn by any group must be voted for in a simple vote of all members of the National Assembly and must be allowed only if supported by a majority of those voting. The rules should be amended to reflect this. The majority opposition in the legislature cannot unilaterally adjourn Cabinet meetings so why should the minority executive be allowed to unilaterally adjourn Parliament?

Yours faithfully,
M Maxwell

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