Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, says the government has a good start to the case challenging the legality of the Natural Resources Fund (NRF) Act.
The trial for the case which was brought by Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones and Trade Unionist Norris Witter began on September 12 in the High Court before Justice Navindra Singh.
Opposition Member of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan appeared as the first witness and was extensively cross-examined by the Attorney General.
The Attorney General said based on what transpired in the court, it was a favourable start to the trial.
“I think we had a very good day and I believe the case is going well,” the Attorney General stated.
The Opposition is challenging the legality of the NRF Act stating there was no consultation for the formulation of the Act and that the parliamentary mace must be in place for the law to be validly passed in the National Assembly.
The Attorney General said as he questioned the witness, it was confirmed that the grounds on which the case is being challenged do not hold merit.
“Significantly he answered many of the questions that I asked of him confirming many things. One, that there is no requirement either in the standing order or in the constitution for a mace to be in place in the exercise of parliament’s legislative power. Secondly, that many bills have been passed in the National Assembly without consultation,” the Attorney General related.
However, he said that during the questioning of Ramjattan, it was confirmed that the PPP/C government did have extensive consultations on the formulation of the NRF Act.
The Attorney General also disclosed that Ramjattan also agreed to the conduct of his colleagues while the NRF Bill was being debated.
“He also had to agree with my suggestions and questions of how disorderly his members behaved in the parliament, that they defied rulings of the speaker, that they were cited several times by the speaker for this defiance, they blew the whistle, march and made noise in the National Assembly, that they descended into the well of the National Assembly without the permission of the speakers, that as a result of their ruckus conduct that the assembly had to be adjourned, that they broke themace and that they assaulted members of staff of the parliament,” he stated.
However, at the close of the day, Justice Singh set November 8 and 9 for the next trial dates where Jones and Witter will be cross-examined.
The NRF Bill was legally passed in the National Assembly on December 29, 2021. The Act ensures that there is security, transparency and accountability surrounding revenues the country gains from oil and gas.
It also outlines a structure of how the monies from oil and gas will be used and provide for continuous public disclosures, audits and parliamentary approvals. The Act also has stiff penalties for breach of any part of the Act. [Extracted from DPI]