The APNU is calling on the Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs to send the four local government bills passed last month to the president for his assent even though the bills are currently with the Attorney General.
AG Anil Nandlall, meanwhile, says he is awaiting instructions from the Office of the President.
The APNU in a release on Tuesday noted that Standing Order 67 of the National Assembly state that “Every Bill passed by the Assembly shall remain in the custody of the Clerk who shall, subject to Article 164 of the Constitution, at the earliest opportunity, submit the Bill to the President for his or her assent.”
The words “shall remain in the custody of the Clerk” are mandatory,” the release added.
“APNU considers that it would constitute a breach of the duty and an abdication of the specific responsibility of the Clerk of the National Assembly for the said Bills to be submitted to the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs after their passage by the National Assembly as there is no provision in the Constitution or Standing Orders authorising such a procedure,” it continued.
When contacted by Demerara Waves Online News Isaacs chose not to respond to the APNU’s statement.
“I’ve been taught as Clerk of the National Assembly not to comment on matters raised by the MPs, I want to take that advice,” he said.
However, Isaacs did say that he submitted the bills to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel in the AG’s Chambers and added that he had spoken to Nandlall this week and was told that the bills were “receiving his attention.”
The opposition parties have pointed out that once a bill was passed by the National Assembly there was no further role for the AG since he could not change “even a comma.”
Late Tuesday, Isaacs was quoted in a statement as telling Opposition Leader, David Granger in a letter that the Parliament Office does not have a legal draftsman to ensure that the amendments are properly inserted after Bills are passed. “You would recall that there was a number of complex amendments which required a legally- trained person to insert in the Bills after they were approved by the National Assembly,” he said.
According to the Clerk, the Parliamentary Management Committee has recommended that a legal division be created at the Parliament Office to deal with Bills after they have been passed by the National Assembly. In the absence of such a division the office has traditionally sought the assistance of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to ensure that all amendments are correctly inserted before a Bill is presented to the President for his assent.
But Nandlall told Demwaves that the bills, passed on August 7, only recently reached him since they were being vetted by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to ensure they conformed with what was drafted.
“It undergoes a scrutiny to ensure that that which is going to be made into law was what was actually passed by the parliament and what was actually drafted by the draftsman.”
He added that the bills were substantial in volume and nature and it was presumably that which saw the bills only recently coming to him. Nandlall acknowledged that he had no power to make any change to the bills.
“When that process is completed then it comes to me for the preparation of an assent certificate or a non-assent certificate and I have to receive instruction from the Office of the President in respect of which certificate I have to prepare,” Nandlall said.
According to the AG, he is yet to receive such a directive from the president.
The four bills once assented to would reform the local government system and were seen as critical to the hosting of local government elections due since 1997.