In 1926 when the Father of Trade Unionism, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, started the fight for one man one vote, a measure to protect the inalienable right to self-determination, he expected his successors and descendants (ie, citizens/ workers/trade unions) to secure and deepen it, not erode or trample on it. Reference is made to the article ‘President’s non assent to one of the local Government Amendment Bills…The amendment was unconstitutional – Nandlall’ (KN, Dec 3). Mr Anil Nandlall, serving this nation in the capacity as Attorney General (AG) needs to get a couple of things straight. One, this nation is not polluted with ignorance. Most importantly, the constitution and laws are written to be understood by the masses, and their intent is to serve and protect. One needs no legal certification to understand them. One needs the basic understanding of the language they are written in and a discerning thought process, which in local parlance is called common sense.
Arguing in a court of law regarding a case that may involve precedents and citations is different from upholding the constitution and providing evidence to this effect in support for or rejection of matters impinging on this document. The AG’s arguments that the President withheld assent of the Local Government (Amendment) Bill “by virtue of the power conferred on him by Article 170(3) of the Constitution” is not a power without responsibility or expectation. Article 170 (3) 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.” Evidently, this article does not operate in vacuum. This article has built within it the ability of the office holder to reason and make public such reasoning.
And this is underpinned in Article 111 which guides this nation in its expectation and corresponding demands of the office holder. This article sets a standard, to wit, “the President shall act in accordance with his own deliberate judgment, except in cases where, by this Constitution or by any other law, he is required to act in accordance with the advice or on the recommendation of any person or authority.” And if the president has withheld assent, it is reasonable for us to expect such decision-making falls within this parameter.
The AG has advised the Bill was returned to the Speaker on November 14 accompanied by a message. If this is true the Speaker is called upon to make this message public to guide the nation. This is not a matter of secrecy. It is one of national import, more so in that it borders on the right to self-determination at the local government level which is protected in Article 75 and ensured in Article 78A.
Accordingly, Article 71 (1) stipulates, “Local government is a vital aspect of democracy and shall be organised so as to involve as many people as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live.” This is protected in Article 75 where “Parliament shall provide that local democratic organs shall be autonomous and take decisions which are binding upon their agencies and institutions, and upon the communities and citizens of their areas.” And reinforced in Article78A which instructs that “Parliament shall establish a Local Government Commission, the composition and rules of which empower the commission to deal with as it deems fit, all matters related to the regulation and staffing of local government organs and with dispute resolution within and between local government organs.”
The AG continues to raise the eyebrows of this nation regarding the quality of advice he is giving the executive. For him to now mask his poor performance on the pretext that the Bill was unconstitutional when said Bill was unanimously passed with the support of the PPP raises legitimate questions about him not knowing and being unaware that he knows not. This is a troubling position for the nation to find itself in, for it has dire implications on the way the executive does business on the people’s behalf.