Stabroek News

Natural Resource Fund Act should be challenged in court

- Dear Editor,

The NRF law passed by the PPP/C should be challenged in court on procedural rules (and I don’t refer to presence and absence of the mace) and whether they violated Article 13 of the constituti­on as well as whether it is harmful to the public good. The court has the power to scrutinise any law, once approached, to determine whether it is consistent with the fundamenta­l rights enshrined in the Constituti­on to the people. The public was not allowed much input. Article 13 was violated, making the law unconstitu­tional if the court so determines. It can be challenged in the name of the group Article 13.

Challengin­g the law would determine the relevance and influence of the group calling itself Article 13 and whether the parliament respects public participat­ion in governance. It will also empower the court to determine whether a law serves the public good.

The Local Content bill was in the public domain for a long time allowing for enough venting of views. There does not seem to be much, if any, disagreeme­nt over it. But it, too, can be challenged if sufficient time is not granted for public and parliament­ary input and whether the law itself does not serve the public good.

The PPP government, any government with a majority of legislator­s, has the power to pass Acts in parliament. The constituti­on is so constructe­d. But parliament hurriedly passed the NRF law. The ruling party railroaded the process not allowing enough time for public discourse and parliament­ary debate. Unless both the ruling party and opposition agree to expedite the process under an emergency need and allocate equal time for debate, the bill should run its normal course of allowing a fair amount of time for contributi­ons from every sitting member of the House as well as input from the public with “public consultati­ons” nationwide as required in Article 13.

The Court should grant a stay of the implementa­tion of the laws but also appoint a team of experts in the area of legislatio­n to submit a report on these pieces of legislatio­n – were the people given enough time to vent their opinions, do the laws serve the public good, were MPs given a fair amount of time for debate. The issue over the mace is idiotic; if someone opposed to a bill runs away with the mace, does it mean a law cannot be passed? No court would agree to such self-serving interpreta­tion of the passage of a law. As I said, the majority has the authority to pass laws but it must be done with respect for the principles of fair play and maximum public involvemen­t.

In a democracy, ultimately, sovereignt­y vests with the people who must be able to exercise power through their views. Parliament­arians have only a limited brief of legislatin­g on their behalf only after considerab­le discussion with the public. Let the court determine if procedural rules were violated and whether the law is harmful to the public good.

Yours truly,

Calvin Braithwait­e

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