Reference is made to the Attorney General’s letter, ‘The President has untrammelled freedom to assent to and withhold assent from Bills” (SN, September, 30).
What is flawed about the AG’s letter as he attempts to ascribe to the President “an undoubted and untrammelled freedom to assent to, and to withhold his assent from, Bills presented to him” is that he ignores a critical element of an article he highlights, namely, Article 170(3) which expressly states: “Where the President withholds his assent to a Bill, he returns it to the Speaker within twenty-one days of the date when it was presented to him for assent with a message stating the reasons why he has withheld his assent.”
Implicit in the identified article, while linked to others he refers to, is the fact that it makes clear to this society the president is not above the constitution or above the people. He has an accounting responsibility and in this instance a specific time line to give reason should he withhold assent.
Therefore, for the AG to claim “untrammelled freedom …” demonstrates that sitting in public office are persons who should not be manning the people’s business for they appear to know not what they ought to do even when it is spelt out.
Further, to tell the nation the shenanigans being applied for not having the outstanding Bills on the president’s desk signed constitute “convention” without acceding to public outcries again presents a picture this official has no interest in justice (one of the office’s primary responsibilities) but is hiding behind a claimed ‘convention’ to stymie the will of the people in pursuit of political dominance.
As a servant of the people the AG must not be allowed to hide behind something he claims to have happened in the past when he is enlightened that such past action is inappropriate.
He has a responsibility to act in accordance with what is appropriate. By the same token he is also communicating to groups if ‘convention’ treated them as second class citizens, in as much as such practices are today deemed unjust and inappropriate, he would continue with same.
This society must not remain silent or be shackled by any claim to any ‘convention’ that undermines their will or denies us what’s rightly ours.
Laws are made to govern societal behaviours and they are dead at heart unless activated by the people and such activation must be consistent with the desires of the people, underpinned by universal principles. This is what the AG must be able to grasp.
In this era of public accountability those resisting change must hear from us. The Bills in question seek to strengthen the inalienable right to self-determination, a universal principle which underpinned our struggles and achievements for political independence and republican status. This was extended to the devolution of power to the region, town, and village level. And since rights are non-negotiable, the AG must either act in a way consistent with the responsibility of his office or vacate same.