Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has condemned a recent “study tour” of the National Assembly by a People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) group, saying it blurs the line between government and party business.
Two Saturdays ago, Attorney General Basil Williams, who is Chairman of the PNCR, delivered the feature address to the touring group, called the “Patriots,” which comprises largely of professionals.
This information was made public through a press statement issued by the Attorney General’s Chambers, later prompting criticism by former Attorney General and current opposition parliamentarian Anil Nandlall.
“The line is progressively being blurred between government and the PNCR,” Nandlall lamented, while reminding of the former existence of the Ministry of National Mobilisation which served the party during its previous time in government.
“The government became the executive arm of the PNC. They placed the flag of PNC above the national flag in the Court of Appeal compound to show the world and nation that the judiciary was subservient to the party and I, as a citizen, am not comfortable with these signs I am now seeing. They are too familiar,” Nandlall stressed.
In a statement, Nandlall also stated that the nature of the Parliament’s work “under the doctrine of Separation of Powers mandates that it must not be contaminated by petty party politics, neither should its facilities be used to accommodate the activities of political parties.”
As a result, he condemned “in the strongest terms” the use of the “hallowed halls of the Chambers of the National Assembly for an apparent PNC activity involving a grouping called the “Patriots” and facilitated by the Clerk and staff of the Assembly.”
Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs is, however, baffled by the criticism. Isaacs told Stabroek News that it was not the first time a training session was held for one of a wide variety of groups comprised of public citizens.
Isaacs said that he was approached by the group, which wanted to know about the Parliament and how it functions and he explained that his office has facilitated similar tours for other groups, including several schools, over the last few weeks.
“I didn’t conduct the session but was there observing my Deputy, who I have been training to conduct such duties,” he explained.
Isaacs added that while he was not 100% certain, he believes his office has previously facilitated similar sessions for the PPP/C Women’s Arm at the request of Member of Parliament Indra Chandarpal.
He referenced several other sessions held, including for a senior citizens’ group from Linden and he explained that his office is willing to offer this training to persons of any age from any organization, including any political party.
He offered to hold a session for the Progressive Youth Organisation, the youth arm of the PPP/C, if Nandlall so desired.
“These are persons who may be parliamentarians in the future, so it is good for them to know how the institution functions. I am going to Geneva from the 22nd to the 30th but Mr. Nandlall is free, if he so wishes, to organise for me to hold a similar session,” Isaacs said.
Nandlall’s condemnation extended to both Isaac’s and Speaker Barton Scotland as he stressed that “these officers are responsible for the preservation of the sanctity of Parliament”.
“I wish to register deep dismay that the Speaker would permit such a pantomime to take place in the sacred hall of the National Assembly and that the Clerk allowed himself to be used in the process,” he said.
Stabroek News was unable to contact Williams.