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PPP stiffens constitutional challenge to PM Nagamootoo’s presence in the National Assembly

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Headquaters- Freedom House.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Sunday intensified its legal stance against Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo sitting in the National Assembly while performing presidential duties in the absence of President Davdi Granger who is away for cancer treatment.

PPP Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandall told Demerara Waves Online News that opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira would be dispatching a letter to House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland outlining her party’s position that Nagamootoo remaining in the House would be unconstitutional.

“The framers of the Constitution went to great length in creating a clear divide between the National Assembly and the President. In the circumstances, while performing the office of President, the Prime Minister’s presence in the
National Assembly is institutionally incongruous and constitutionally incestuous,” said Nandlall in a statement.

Granger left for Cuba on December 4, 2018 for another round of chemotherapy. He was expected to return at the weekend, but a reliable government source said the Guyanese leader is now expected back during “this week.”

Nandlall, in a statement to the media on the issue, cited several provisions of Guyana’s Constitution that effectively prohibit the Prime Minister from sitting in the National Assembly while performing duties of the president. Among those constitutional provisions, he said, was one that describes the Prime Minister and all other Vice Presidents as ministers.

The PPP front-bencher indicated that it would amount to a conflict of functions because, after the National Budget is approved, the Appropriations Bill is passed and signed into law by the President. If the Prime Minister, performing the duties of President, continues to sit in the House Nandlall said he could end up assenting the Bill over which he has voted to pass. The coalition has a one-seat majority in the 65-seat House.

“It would be a contradiction in terms if the President was to participate in the passage of Bills in the National
Assembly and then having the functional responsibility of assenting to those very Bills. That is precisely why the President has a power to withhold his assent from Bills.The President is therefore, neither a part of, nor a “rubber stamp” of the National Assembly,”  said Nandlall, a former Attorney General.

The PPP parliamentarian rejected suggestions that Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, while performing presidential duties, had  sat in the House.

For his part, Prime Minister Nagamootoo has virtually ruled out giving up his seat temporarily on the grounds that he is an elected member of the National Assembly and he was not just a minister but the Prime Minister.

He has accused Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo of plotting to shutdown the government by blocking passage of the 2019 National Budget. Nagamootoo suggested that seeking to remove him from the House appeared to be a second alternative to the no-confidence motion which several government MPs have said the coalition would not lose.

The Opposition Leader has said Guyana’s constitution states that when when a minister is performing presidential duties or has assumed the office, his or her seat in the National Assembly should be regarded as vacant and it should be temporarily filled until the period expires. He  has also said the constitution provides for the president’s absence from Guyana due to illness or any other cause during which he or she can direct or authorise any Cabinet member to perform presidential functions.