A flawed interpretation of the constitution

Dear Editor,

After reading Mr Mohabir Anil Nandlall’s letter ‘The President has untrammelled freedom to assent to and to withhold assent from Bills’ (Stabroek News September 30), I could not help but wonder whether Mr Nandlall was trying to be smart in a context where the opposition is either very lazy or incompetent or both, with a civil society that is practically non-existent, or was it a case of pure contempt for the populace?

Mr Nandlall takes more than two pages to subject readers to a flawed interpretation of the constitutional provisions regarding the presidential assent to Bills passed in the National Assembly. Equally ridiculous is his view that prior practices justify current practices without indicating that such practices necessarily must conform to the constitution. Mr Nandlall makes the unnecessary reference to the constitutions of the US and India. Incidentally, both he and indeed the President took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of Guyana.

Editor, I may be wrong but I cannot remember reading anywhere that anyone has questioned the President’s authority or freedom to assent to or withhold such assent from Bills presented to him. What people have been saying is that such assent or refusal must occur within the constitutionally mandated twenty-one days. Moreover, where the President refuses to assent he is constitutionally required to give his reason(s) in writing. If Mr Nandlall wants to regard such provisions as the requirement to act within twenty-one days as being untrammelled freedom, then he is free to do so.

Earlier reports in the press in relation to the inordinate delay in having presidential assent or non- assent to Bills, reported Mr Nandlall as saying that these delays were in part because assent certificates needed to be presented by him before the Bills could be signed into law. Since Mr Nandlall seems fond of quoting from constitutions perhaps he could quote the article(s) in ours which mandates this.

My own view is that twenty-one days are just enough time to rubber stamp a Bill or to veto it citing the objections (which would have to have been known even before the Bill reached the President’s desk). It is commonplace in countries where leaders take seriously their duty to uphold the constitution that these leaders announce beforehand their intent to veto
Bills which contain or exclude certain provisions.

Yours faithfully,
Marlon Cumberbatch