APNU/AFC goes to court to challenge appointments of Parliamentary Secretaries

Over three months after the appointment by the Government of two Parliamentary Secretaries, the parliamentary Opposition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) has gone to court to challenge the legality of the appointments.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

The two Parliamentary Secretaries, Vickash Ramkissoon and Sarah Brown, were appointed back in September to assist various Ministers. But APNU/AFC contends that the two were candidates on the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) list and thus, cannot serve as Parliamentary Secretaries.
It is understood that APNU/AFC wants the High Court to issue an order directing Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir to prevent the two from sitting in the National Assembly as Parliamentary Secretaries.
The appointment of the Parliamentary Secretaries was made on September 15, which was day two of the budget debates. Brown, who was the Region One Vice Chairman, was appointed to assist Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai while Ramkissoon was appointed to assist Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, in discharging his duties.
At the time, this publication had interviewed Government Chief Whip and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira, who had explained what the appointments mean and the fact that they are not a breach of the Constitution but rather, provided for in the constitutional reform process.

Parliamentary Secretary Sarah Brown

Joseph Hamilton, who is the current Minister of Labour, is a former Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health. Sukhai, on the other hand, previously served as a Parliamentary Secretary in the very Ministry she now heads.
“After the constitutional reforms we went through in 2009, it provides for four technocrat Ministers and two parliamentary secretaries. The parliamentary secretaries can be appointed from MP’s who are elected or persons who are eligible to be MPs. So, you can have an MP who is a Parliamentary Secretary and one who is not.”
“The ones that are not elected MPs, they are allowed to sit in Parliament, speak but not vote. So, in the past (Minister Sukhai) was an MP and a Parliamentary Secretary and (now Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton) was an MP and a Parliamentary Secretary,” Minister Teixeira had explained.
This latest court action comes on the heels of a previous court case the Opposition filed, challenging the appointment of current Minister of Tourism, Industry and Trade Oneidge Walrond.

Parliamentary Secretary
Vickash Ramkissoon

In that instance, it had been conceded that Walrond’s status as a dual citizen when she accepted the post of Member of Parliament put her at odds with the Constitution. Attorney General Anil Nandlall had informed the court that Walrond would be taking a new oath as an unelected Member of Parliament at the next sitting of the National Assembly.