High Court dismisses challenge to NRF Bill’s passage

Justice Navindra Singh has ruled against Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones and Trade Unionist Norris Witter in their case challenging the passage of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Bill.

In his ruling, Justice Singh stated that the absence of the mace during the passage of the NRF bill did not invalidate its subsequent passage.

He emphasised that the presence of the mace in the National Assembly is not mandated by the Constitution or the laws of Guyana. Therefore, the bill’s passage was not deemed unconstitutional or unlawful because of its absence.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, in an update, expressed similar sentiment.

“Mace or absence of mace has nothing to do with the legislative power of the parliament to make laws…Parliament is driven by the elected officials who are there elected by the people and is governed by the constitution. The constitution nor the standing order makes any reference for mace” the Attorney General stated.

He welcomed the court’s decision, highlighting the importance of these rulings for the development of the law and jurisprudence of the nation.

On December 29, 2019, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, was interrupted during his defence of the bill by what was described as unparliamentary behaviour by members of the Opposition.

The Opposition Chief Whip objected to the bill’s second reading and requested that it be sent to a special select committee. However, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, preferred to hear arguments from both sides before deciding on the matter.

During Minister Singh’s speech, members of the Opposition continued with their disruptive behaviour. Opposition MP Annette Ferguson attempted to remove the mace, an unprecedented act.

The speaker’s personal assistant managed to prevent the mace’s removal by holding it tightly on the floor of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.

Jones and Witter, represented by attorneys Roysdale Forde, S.C., and Selwyn Pieters, sought judicial review and relief under the Constitution in their attempt to challenge the NRF bill’s passage. However, their case was ultimately dismissed by Justice Navindra Singh.

The case was dismissed in its entirety, and costs of $250,000 were awarded to each defendant against each claimant.

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