Nandlall insists Parliamentary Secretaries must ‘sit’ in House
By Kurt Campbell
Some 40 days after Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George, SC, ruled that the appointment of Vickash Ramkissoon and Sarah Browne as Members of Parliament (MPs) is unlawful, an appeal is still pending.
On Tuesday, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, said that he was in the process of making an application for a ‘Stay of the Order’ made by the Chief Justice until the hearing and determination of the appeal.
His comments came hours after the APNU+AFC Parliamentary Opposition criticised Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, for failing to declare the seats of the two MPs vacant.
But Nandlall believes that the two MPs, who sit as non-voting members following their appointment as Parliamentary Secretaries, must continue to sit in the National Assembly.
The Chief Justice did not grant any coercive orders for the removal of the MPs from the House, however, she noted in her ruling that it cannot be accepted that they sit in the National Assembly as non-voting members, pointing out that they were on the List of Candidates for the governing People’s Progressive Party Civic at the 2020 elections.
Nandlall said these were mere declarations and, in his view, the Chief Justice did not quash their appointments, and as such, they continue to be Parliamentary Secretaries.
The issue is now whether they can sit in the House as non-voting MPs.
“The Chief Justice said because they were on the list, they cannot be seated in the National Assembly, but there is nothing wrong with putting two chairs at the side and put them to sit because where will they sit?” the Attorney General argued.
“They are Parliamentary Secretaries and that is where they belong. Just like how the press has a place in the Parliament, the Clerk and the parliamentary staff have a place, I can’t see why these two can’t have seats,” Nandlall contended.
Nandlall said the two MPs do not have voting rights and will not participate in the business of the House, but insist that a space must be found for them to sit there.
“They will be present,” he asserted.
Meanwhile, when contacted and asked for a response to the criticism leveled against him, Speake Nadir declined to discuss the matter in the press.
Speaking to the News Room by phone on Wednesday, Nadir said, “Whoever wants to write and complain, they are free to do so. I don’t have to engage.”
He rebuffed claims that “obviously no action was taken” and said the “opposition doesn’t know what is happening in Parliament.”
“I am not going to conduct the business of the National Assembly in the press,” the Speaker said.
Browne is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Amerindian Affairs Ministry, while Ramkissoon is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Agriculture Ministry.
The law makes provision for the President to appoint four technocrats Members of Parliament and two Parliamentary Secretaries, who will not have the same voting rights as elected members extracted from a list of candidates.
The legal challenge was mounted by Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones – a case that Nandlall defended.
It was expected that in granting the relief sought by Jones and his attorney, Opposition Parliamentarian, Roysdale Forde, SC, the Speaker of the National Assembly would have to steps to prevent Browne and Ramkissoon from sitting in or participating in the business of the National Assembly.
The entire decision is being appealed on the grounds that the CJ misinterpreted and misconstrued the law in arriving at her decision. The Attorney General said the ruling is erroneous.