Judge sets March 17 for ruling on legality of NRF Act

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
A tug-of-war between APNU+AFC MPs and Parliament Staff after the Opposition Parliamentarians stole the mace from Speaker Manzoor Nadir in December 2021

High Court Judge Navindra Singh has been asked to pronounce on the validity of the Natural Resource Fund Act (NRF) Act and he will do so on March 17 at 09:00h at the Demerara High Court.

Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones and Trade Unionist Norris Witter (the claimants), earlier this year, initiated legal proceedings against the government, claiming that due to the absence of the parliamentary Mace – the most significant symbol in the National Assembly and some members not being seated—the NRF Act cannot be regarded as being lawfully passed.

On the night of December 29, 2021, Members of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (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.

The defendants in the claim are Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, House Speaker Manzoor Nadir, Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs, and the Parliament Office. The trial into the matter which commenced on September 12, concluded on Friday with one of the defendants calling their final witness, the Videography Manager at the Department of Public Information (DPI), Kennyann Bacchus. Both sides have now closed their case and were given up to February 10, 2023, to file closing submissions. Submissions in reply have to be filed 10 days after and Justice Singh will hand down his ruling on March 17.

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 several withdrawals from the fund amounting to tens of billions of dollars which were transferred to the Consolidated Fund to finance national development priorities.

However, Jones and Witter are seeking court orders necessary to ensure that the Natural Resource Fund is replenished to the extent of all sums disbursed from it.

The pair was represented by Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde and Canada-based Guyanese lawyer Selwyn Pieters. Included on the legal team for the defendants are the Attorney General, Deputy Solicitor General Deborah Kumar, and Attorneys-at-Law Sase Gunraj and Kamal Ramkarran.