Mace case: Despite videos, gov’t & opposition differ on how events unfolded
… Judge asks parties to state their case, present their evidence
Despite video recordings of the events that transpired last December in the National Assembly when the government attempted to pass the new Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Bill, members of the government and parliamentary opposition differ on what really transpired.
Because of these differing accounts, on Friday High Court Judge Justice Navindra Singh asked members of the government and opposition to present their statements of case to allow for the case challenging the NRF Act to proceed.
This statement of case will allow the parties- that is, the applicants (the opposition) and the defendants (the government)- to set out their case in legal proceedings. The parties shall provide evidence to support their case.
The challenge to the NRF Act was brought by Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones. It has ben contended that the Bill was not legally passed and as such, could not become law.
After Justice Singh’s order, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandall SC explained that this decision was made after the parties failed to agree on the statement of facts of issues.
The statement of facts includes the legally significant facts that a court would use in analysing and applying the rule of law to the substantive case.
“Unfortunately- but as expected- we were unable to agree to that statement of facts and issues simply because the applicants are refusing to accept their behaviour in the National Assembly on the day in question,” the Attorney- General told reporters in the corridors of the High Court on Friday.
Disruptions that culminated in the seizure of the Speaker’s Mace in the National Assembly are among the events that unfolded on December 29, 2021 as the government sought to pass the new NRF Bill.
On that night, Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) protested in the House as the Bill was about to be voted on and passed and when their shouting and blowing of whistles did nothing to prevent the government from moving forward MP Annette Ferguson seized the Mace from the Chamber.
But the opposition, the Attorney General said, is claiming that different events transpired. According to him, those MPs refuse to admit that they engaged in any disruptive behaviours.
Opposition MPs have also contended that the Bill was not validly passed because the mace was not in place at the time of the vote. It is also contended that opposition parliamentarians hadn’t an opportunity to vote on the Bill as it was put to a vote while its MPs were out of their seats and the chamber.
Nandlall disagrees with these positions.
“Against that backdrop, you cannot get an agreed statement of facts so that effort was futile.
“We came back this morning to report that to the judge and the judge now converted the matter to a statement of case, where each party now has to set out their pleadings and put in their evidence that they are relying on,” the Attorney General explained.
Because that Bill was successfully passed and enacted, and the government has already made two substantial withdrawals from the oil wealth fund.
With its legality still under question in the courts, however, the Attorney General believes that the new developments in the case will allow for a speedy resolution of the challenge.
In fact, he contended that once the live video recordings of what transpired on that night are presented to the Court, Nandlall believes the trial set for September 12, 2022 will be quickly concluded.
“I believe that the orders today are positive and would’ve paved the way for a quick disposal of the matter in accordance with law and the correct evidence,” Nandlall said.