Speaker now asks AG for legal advice on No-Confidence Motions
By Kurt Campbell
Pending his decision on the No-Confidence Motions against the Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon, and two sitting government ministers, Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir is now seeking the legal advice of Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC.
The two APNU+AFC opposition sponsored motions against the Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, and Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn have been with the Speaker since last week but he officially received the government’s motion against Harmon on Monday.
Speaking with the News Room via telephone on Tuesday, the House Speaker said based on advice from the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, he has since instructed that the Attorney General’s legal advice is solicited.
Nadir said the government’s motion against the Opposition Leader “may have implications with respect to the Constitution.”
But notwithstanding, the Clerk has been instructed to write the AG for his advice on all three of the motions.
“I have gotten the Clerk’s advice and I want to hear what the legal advice is,” Nadir told the News Room, adding that legal advice is also be sought in the context of a previous ruling by former Chief Justice, the late Ian Chang. He did not specify which ruling he was referring to.
Meanwhile, the Clerk, when contacted by the News Room on Tuesday, further explained that while he is expected to be the expert on parliamentary practice and procedure, the motion against the Opposition Leader requires legal interpretation which he has recused himself from providing.
He pointed to Article 184 (3) of the Constitution which speaks about the removal of the Leader of the Opposition.
“While I am not a lawyer, I was taught that where matters – like the one we are dealing with – [have] to do with the law, to refer those matters for legal advice,” Isaacs said.
Article 184 (3) instructs that the removal of the Opposition Leader is effected when one-third of the non-governmental members of the National Assembly inform the Speakers that the Opposition Leader no longer enjoys their confidence.
The Speaker is expected to call a meeting of all non-governmental members where it shall be decided whether the Opposition Leader shall be removed from office. That Article further notes that the removal shall be effected by the votes of a majority of all of the non-governmental members.
“The removal of Mr. Harmon from office involves the law and while I’m clear on the procedural aspects… I’m not a lawyer and I may interpret the Constitution incorrectly and I may be embarrassed by the lawyers in this country. I have, therefore, advised the Speaker to seek legal advice,” Isaacs further clarified.
He said the advice will basically inform the Speaker whether the motions against Harmon, Dr. Anthony, and Benn can be approved to be placed on the Order Paper for a debate and subsequent vote in the National Assembly.
Isaacs said the AG has been written to already for his legal advice; the Speaker now awaits a response.
Mr. Nandlall could not be immediately reached for comment on Tuesday