Opposition’s case to remove VP from Parliament “premature” – AG

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo

Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall on Tuesday criticised legal action filed by Opposition Members of Parliament to remove Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo from the National Assembly. Nandlall said the matter needs to first be addressed to the Speaker of the National Assembly and not the judiciary.
“The entire action is precipitous and premature,” he said during his ‘Issues in the News’ programme on Tuesday evening.
Members of the parliamentary opposition, Christopher Jones and Tabitha Sarabo-Halley had approached the High Court in February citing the Standing Orders of the National Assembly which states that a member’s seat shall be vacated if they are absent from parliamentary sittings for more than six consecutive sessions within a specified period. The application alleges that Vice President Jagdeo was absent for 11 consecutive sittings from December 11, 2023, to February 1, 2024.
However, Nandlall noted that a motion must be first tabled in the National Assembly to establish the truth. “If a member is absent from Parliament, that is a matter for parliament, the parliament has the register,” he said, adding that the Speaker and Clerk of the National Assembly will determine if the VP was indeed absent from sittings for more than the prescribed number of times.
“You have to determine the matter in the parliament itself. The court cannot go into parliament to read the register, the court can’t read the rules of the parliament to determine who is sitting and who is absent, that is not the court’s business, that is the speaker’s business,” he emphasised.
According to Chapter XIII of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, any member who is prevented from attending a sitting of the National Assembly shall acquaint the Clerk as early as possible of his or her inability to attend.
Further, it notes that if without the leave of the Speaker obtained in writing before the end of the last of the Sittings referred to in this paragraph, any elected Member is absent from the National Assembly for more than six consecutive sittings occurring during the same Session and within a period of no longer than two calendar months, he or she shall vacate his or her seat in the Assembly under Articles 54 and 156(1) (b) of the Constitution.