AG clarifies statement of Parliamentary Secretaries sitting in the House
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Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C.
Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C.

ATTORNEY-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C, has clarified reports in the press, circulating on social media, alluding that he insisted that Parliamentary Secretaries, Vikash Ramkissoon and Sarah Brown, should continue to sit in the National Assembly despite the recent ruling of the Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George, S.C.

The Chief Justice, on April 20, 2021, had ruled that Brown and Ramkissoon, who were not extracted from the list of candidates to become members of the National Assembly but were appointed by virtue of Article 186 of the Constitution, are not lawful members of the National Assembly.

The Attorney-General, on Saturday, took to his Facebook page to clarify that he did not say Brown and Ramkissoon must sit in the House, while explaining that if he was to say so, he would have been guilty of aiding and abetting the commission of contempt of court in respect of the Chief Justice’s “clear and unambiguous” pronouncements.

“I would never violate or contravene or encourage the violation or contravention of an order of a Court of competent jurisdiction. I have too much veneration for the majesty of the law to do so. I am very much conscious of the axiomatic principle that an Order of Court must, at all times, be obeyed irrespective of how flawed, misconceived or wrong I may perceive it to be,” he wrote.

Nandlall has since appealed the matter, and filed for an order to stay the Chief Justice’s ruling. A stay, in judicial proceedings, is a court order halting or suspending the proceeding, temporarily or indefinitely. If granted, the stay would effectively allow Brown and Ramkissoon to continue to sit as members of the National Assembly until the matter is completely adjudicated upon.

Nandlall, in his Facebook post, explained that what he had said to the reporter is that ‘Parliamentary Secretaries’, as the name suggests, should have a place to sit in Parliament. He is quoted in the news report as saying “nothing wrong with putting two chairs at the side and put them to sit because where will they sit.”

He illustrated that as press and Parliamentary staff are allotted a place in the precincts of National Assembly, similarly, there is nothing wrong with a place being physically allocated for the two Parliamentary Secretaries to be accommodated in the National Assembly.

“I emphasised that, obviously, they will not be able [to] participate in the proceedings of the Assembly. I hope I have now clarified this issue for the public record,” he wrote.

Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones, had filed an application in the High Court challenging the legality of the appointment of Brown and Ramkissoon, contending that they cannot be appointed as non-elected Members of Parliament, since they were named on the PPP/C’s List of Candidates for the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.

His submissions to the High Court relied heavily on the Appeal Court’s decision in Desmond Morian v Attorney-General et anor [2015], in which Nandlall, at the time a member of the Opposition, had successfully argued that then Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, Keith Scott, and Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix, were unlawful members of the National Assembly.

The Chief Justice ruled in favour of Jones on the grounds that she was bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal in the Morian case, based on the legal doctrine of precedent, which mandates that lower courts are bound by those courts higher in the hierarchy, even when they do not agree with the higher courts.

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