Opposition’s attempt to remove VP from Parliament frivolous, vexatious – AG

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, has stated that the legal proceedings filed by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition to remove Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo from the National Assembly is not only frivolous and vexatious, but will also bring attention to the coalition’s own absenteeism in Parliament.

Last Thursday, the APNU/AFC Opposition filed legal proceedings to remove VP Jagdeo as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the National Assembly – a move which AG Nandlall said has no merit.

“This is another frivolous, unmeritorious and vexatious action filed by the Opposition. And hopefully, will be regarded as such by the court after hearing all the submissions,” he stated.

Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones and MP Tabitha Sarabo-Halley filed an application in the High Court over what they say was the “prolonged absence” of VP Jagdeo from the National Assembly and from parliamentary sessions.

They are claiming that Jagdeo has missed 11 consecutive sittings of the National Assembly within the first parliamentary session, between December 11, 2023 and February 1, 2024.Articles 54 and 156 1 (b) of the Constitution of Guyana and Standing Order 106 (2) of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly of Guyana provide that a seat of a Member of the National Assembly shall be vacated if that member is absent for more than six consecutive sittings of the National Assembly within the First Session (2020-2024) of the Twelfth Parliament of Guyana, and within a period of no longer than two calendar months.

According to the Opposition MPs, Jagdeo’s absence has been recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings of the 69th to 79th sittings of the National Assembly, which they said is a “conclusive recording” of the House. They say in the legal document that the Vice President was absent from sittings held on: December 11 and 19, 2023, and on January 15, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30 and 31, 2024; as well as on February 1, 2024.

Based on his absence during these 11 consecutive sittings, the Opposition MPs are claiming in the legal document, Jagdeo has not only ceased to be a member of the National Assembly, but, by virtue thereof, would also cease to hold the posts of Vice President, Government Minister, and a member of Cabinet.

In addition to these senior Government posts, Jagdeo is the General Secretary of the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).The application particularly urges the Court to consider the constitutional and legal implications of Jagdeo’s absence from parliamentary sessions.

However, AG Nandlall, who was also named as a respondent in the legal proceedings along with Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir, argued that the parliamentary records would show that the coalition Opposition itself is guilty of what it is accusing the Vice President of.

“I am of the view that there is no other group of Members of Parliament in the democratic world who are absent more frequently from the National Assembly than this grouping constituting the Opposition in Guyana’s Parliament… There are many of them, one of them in particular, who also was not in the Parliament for the entire Budget season. He was out of the country for that matter.

“Nobody is more absent than them… I don’t understand if they don’t think, if they don’t examine these things that if they go challenge the absence of the other side that it would bring attention to their own absence which is so permeating and prevalent,” he insisted.The Attorney General added that the Opposition would be the first and loudest to talk about the rule of law, constitutionality, and democracy when its track record and actions speak otherwise. For instance, he reminded of the coalition’s riotous acts in the National Assembly on December 29, 2021 during the infamous mace-grabbing incident, and attempts to steal the March 2020 General and Region Elections.

Nandlall, without getting into the merits of the matter, further posited that this court challenge was not only intended to score cheap political points but also an attempt to have the Judiciary once again interfere with the legislative arm of Government – something that was disputed in the past.

He added that this application also highlighted the Opposition’s fear of Vice President Jagdeo.

“Once again, they are demonstrating their morbid fear of Bharrat Jagdeo… So, they want to get him out of the Parliament,” the Attorney General contended.

Last week, VP Jagdeo, when asked about the legal action filed, told reporters at his press conference that the matter would be dealt with accordingly.