On May 18, 2014 Kaieteur News and Stabroek News carried a letter, written by me, in which I called for the luminaries and scholars to enlighten the populace in relation to the President’s non-assent to the Local Government (Amendment) Bill and the Attorney General’s (AG’s) statements in support. The AG’s statements were carried in Kaieteur News of May 15, 2014 in an article captioned: “Local Government Commission victim of unassented Local Government Bill”. I am still to hear from the luminaries and the scholars but the Attorney General has found it necessary to put his hand up by way of a response on May 21, 2014, in Stabroek News. When I called for enlightenment, I pleaded my layman and knowledge-seeking status, however, the AG in his response may have taken us into a dungeon of darkness rather than enlightenment. I say so, because my layman’s logic and common sense do not allow me to agree with his contentions.
First, he accused me of omitting to mention, and respond to, arguments that he proffered in the National Assembly. May I repeat, “I was referring to the Kaieteur News article of May 15, 2014 which did not carry the arguments that the AG seeks to describe as points to which I omitted to respond. His action may be described as, entering a game and seeking to change the size of the play field and the focus of the game. However, I will accept the challenge, albeit a prevarication. His first point about deletions and resulting deficiencies in the law, whether true or false, has no impact on the constitutionality of the bill and is therefore unrelated to my contention and the debate.
Second, his contentions about the provisions of the bill exceeding the authority the Constitution intended to bequeath to the Commission is a matter for the court to decide, since the provision: “Parliament shall establish a Local Government Commission… to deal with as it deems fit, all matters related to the regulation… of local government organs and with dispute resolution within and between local government organs” seems quite all embracing and may well nullify the application of the Rule of Ultra Vires, which the AG seeks to invoke. The luminaries may well seek a declaration and or interpretation of the Court on this matter; still a law to be pronounced on by the Court. Having put the AG’s distractions aside, I now turn to the substantive issues with which my letter dealt: Those were:
(1) The Local Government Service Commission, in the context of the Separation of Powers, one of the planks on which our political system is built and which our Constitution upholds, cannot be located outside of the executive, though it might hybridize.
(2) The Constitution provides for the Parliament to confer executive authority on persons or authorities other than the President.
First, the AG in his anxiety refers to Article 55 when in fact the Parliament is provided for in Article 51.
In his attempt to misrepresent my understanding of the composition of Parliament; a misunderstanding that cannot be attributed to any of my arguments, the AG completely ignores Chapter VIII, Article 89 of the Constitution which identifies the President as ‘three in one’ rather than the ‘one’ that the AG wishes him to be. Article 89 states “There shall be a President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana who shall be Head of State, the supreme executive authority and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the Republic.”
This ‘three in one’ is reinforced by Article 101(2) which states: “The Prime Minister shall be the principal assistant of the President in the discharge of his executive functions and leader of Government business as the National Assembly. Reference to his executive functions clearly indicates that the President has other functions. I dare say that his functions as Head State are distinct from his functions as Head of Government and that his standing as a component of Parliament is as Head of State rather than the Executive Authority.
It is therefore the AG who commits a colossal blunder by his “faux pas”. He fails to come to terms with the letter of the Constitution given the provisions of Articles 51, 89 and 99.
His argument of the President conceding or not conceding executive authorities clearly exemplifies the attitude of the Government to the State. An attitude which projects the Executive as the Sovereign and every other element of the State as subservient, very much like the supremacy of the party in a communist state and the paramountcy of the party, which was so much criticised during the era of the Burnham regime. May I reiterate Article 99(2) which also provides for the vesting of executive authority in other persons and authorities other than the President. A provision which the AG seeks to dismiss.
The AG’s resort, to the Gun Court Act of Jamaica and the Privy Council Ruling of unconstitutionality, is irrelevant to the matter at hand, for there is no possible violation of the doctrine of the Separation of Powers by the enacting of the Local Government (Amendment) Act, since the authority which is the subject of dispute lies squarely in the realm of the Executive, a realm in which the Commission, in the main, and those powers in particular, reside.
Over to our luminaries and scholars.