Office of the Clerk of the National Assembly Bill 20121586 17 Dec, 2012
Mr. Ramjattan: Mr. Speaker, it would be very much remiss of me not to make a couple of remarks as to what was just said in rebuttal. We have had an Attorney General here who almost with a portion of the machine that he normally uses of slicing up that which is coming from the Opposition as if it is all utter nonsense.
We have been pleading, as you mentioned, Mr. Speaker, that we have to get some support in relation to legislative drafting but we have also indicated in this Hon. Assembly that we have passed certain recommendations. We have supported certain reports – one of which is the Bradford Report that I mentioned last time, the Michael Davies Report, the Pinder Report. All of these reports that Government over there have supported in relation to two things:
1. The staffing of this branch of Government being independent and controlled by the Clerk.
2. That there is independence, financially.
We now come here and hear that the Hon. Attorney General, the first one I am hearing arguing this point – Mr. Ramson, Mr. Singh, Mr. Bernard De Santos, none of them did before – saying that those recommendations that we unanimously decided on have been now blocked by the Constitution of this country. I am indicating that there is absolutely nothing blocking those and all of those arguments mentions just now are erroneous and flawed just like the Attorney General was told by the Hon. Chief Justice in relation to the Committee of Selection and the Budget Case too.
This Attorney General pays lots of attention to the Constitution. I want him to read that same other article that he is quoting so much from. The article says, Article 172:
“Subject to provisions of paragraphs (2), (3) and (4), Parliament may by law determine the privileges, immunities and powers of members of the National Assembly...”
What does (2), (3) and (4) say? (2) says this:
“No civil or criminal proceedings may be instituted against any member of this Assembly for words spoken before, or written in a report to, the Assembly or to a committee thereof or by reason of any matter or thing brought by him therein by petition, bill, resolution, motion or otherwise.”
This Hon. Attorney General is suing you and the Opposition Leader’s Members and this article says that one cannot bring civil proceedings. He goes about “Oh! This Constitution is supreme!”
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Ramjattan, could we confine ourselves to the debate at hand and that is the matter of the bill in the name of the Hon. Member, Mrs. Lawrence.
Mr. Ramjattan: It is relevant because when one want to puts the word “paramountcy” in the Constitution conveniently so you are going to bring cases against Members… I am indicating that this Hon. Attorney General is being very convenient when he argues his position. Attorneys General must be principled right down the line.
I want to tell him that in relation to the Financial Management and Accountability Act…
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Ramjattan, the bill is Mrs. Lawrence’s bill dealing with the Clerk.
Mr. Ramjattan: Yes.
Mr. Speaker: The principle position of the Attorney General or any other Member is not under debate at this time; neither is the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act. I think that we have some matters dealing with that to come.
The learned Attorney General made some points with regard to the bill and you said that it would be remiss of you not to rebut so I ask you to confine your remarks to those.
Mr. Ramjattan: Sir, I am indicating that in our legislative framework we can have exactly as proposed by the Hon. Member… [Mr. Nandlall: Give reasons.] …and we will give reasons. The reasons have been given. All of those that are in there we have indicated coincide with what this Parliament had agreed to in three reports and when you are now going to pretend that at that time it was not unconstitutional and that you are going to concretise it in the form of a piece of legislation and the legislation is not coming – its gestation taking such a long time. Now when it comes from the Opposition you block it by saying, “Oh! Those things are unconstitutional”. I am indicating that unless we the Members in this House be allowed to send it to the Select Committee whatever are the argument that will come there in relation to those that had to be deleted, like so many bills from Government…They have proposed a lot of bills that were sent to select Committees and very many provisions had to be shaved off and severed but they still went. All of a sudden this Minister is saying that none of these things will ever pass muster; the bill is incapable of passing muster. Well we on the other side are of a different opinion and we have waited 15 years almost for something to ensure that the Clerk has certain powers and that you, yourself, Mr. Speaker, have certain powers. The actual nitty-gritties of the bill are all going to be determined in that Select Committee because we can have a number of these things.
My point in relation to the Financial Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) is that in that act a lot of the financial provisions in the Constitution were played back in that act. There is nothing wrong about quoting constitutional provision; it reinforces it, as in Section 34 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act. It says that all public monies raised shall go into the Consolidated Fund. That is Article 216. We got a lot of the article here where they are saying “Parliament legislative authorisation will be needed for appropriations”. That is Article 217. So what if a bill has the provisions of the Constitution? Was the FMAA diluting the effect of the Constitution? I have never heard these kinds of arguments and I want to say that I support, on behalf of the Alliance For Change, and that it goes to the Select Committee. [Applause]
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