APNU+AFC identifies nominees for NRF committees, but awaits ruling on court case – Norton

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton

While the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition has identified persons to take up positions on the various committees to overlook the Natural Resource Fund, it is withholding its nominations until the court makes its ruling.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton was asked by this publication about the Opposition nominees for the various committees that are overlooking the NRF.

Specifically, the Opposition is supposed to submit nominees for the Public Accountability and Oversight and the Investment Committees. According to Norton, however, he does not intend to make any nominations until their court matter has been resolved.

“We have not yet provided nominees. You know we have a case before the courts on this question of the Natural Resources Fund. We know the people we want to put there,” Norton explained.

“But this has to be taken in the context of how the Government operated with the Natural Resources Fund. Let us recall that we made recommendations that the Government refused to consider. And they actually moved to appoint the people they wanted there.”

That being said, Norton did not completely rule out nominating persons to the committees before the court case concludes. As he put it, his party can adapt if there is a need for the persons to be appointed.

“We are holding on that until we deal with the other issues. We have the court case. We are awaiting the outcome. If the need arises, to put people before, we are a political movement that adapts. And we will take action.”

The Opposition has gone to court challenging the legality of the NRF Bill that was passed into law last year. Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones and Trade Unionist Norris Witter, earlier this year, filed a Fixed Date Application which was converted to a Statement of Claim by Justice Singh, arguing that due to the absence of the parliamentary Mace – the most significant symbol in the National Assembly and some members not being seated – the Act cannot be regarded as being lawfully passed.

On the night of December 29, 2021, members of the APNU/AFC had dislodged the Mace from its position at the House Clerk’s desk and protested in an attempt to prevent the Natural Resource Fund Bill from being passed.

At one point in the National Assembly proceedings, the Speaker’s Personal Assistant was seen latching onto the Mace while lying on the floor in an attempt to secure it, while the Opposition parliamentarians stood by hurling racial slurs and taunts at him. However, the Opposition’s protest and its mounting calls for the Bill to be sent to a Special Select Committee had no effect as the Government passed the Bill.

House Speaker Manzoor Nadir is, however, adamant that the NRF Act was lawfully passed, noting that a replica Mace was in place. He had explained that almost all Parliaments in the Westminster System have two Maces in case one is not being found or is stolen.

The court case continues on November 8. However, Attorney General Anil Nandlall has asked that the court dismiss the challenge. In his Affidavit in Defence, Nandlall contended that the claim is an abuse of the court process and without any legal basis. In light of this, he has urged the court to dismiss the matter.

According to the Attorney General, there is no principle known to the law, neither does the Constitution nor the Standing Orders of the National Assembly require that the Mace must be present and in place for Parliament to exercise its constitutional power to make laws for the peace, order, and good governance.

Since the passage of the legislature last December, the Government has gone on to establish the Natural Resource Fund Board. Following parliamentary approval, the Government has made two withdrawals from the fund amounting to $83.3 billion.

This sum, which was taken out following parliamentary approval, has been transferred to the Consolidated Fund to finance national development priorities.