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Both Government and opposition rush to give their interpretation of Speaker’s ruling – 17th Apr 2013

parliamentGovernment’s leader in the House, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds had said that the Government would “abide” by the ruling of the Speaker, but soon thereafter, he joined three other Government Ministers in saying that the ruling of the Speaker was in direct conflict with a ruling by Chief Justice Ian Chang. The Chief Justice had last year ruled that the House does not have the power to reduce the budget, only approve or disapprove.

The Opposition agreed with the Speaker that the Court does not have authority to dictate the running of the business of the National Assembly and if it wanted to cut the budget, it could do so.

The Government questioned why the opposition did not see fit to challenge the decision of the Chief Justice. The Opposition said the ruling was provisional and making that ruling final could be light years away.

If and when the Chief Justice does make his ruling final, the Attorney General Anil Nandlall was at a loss for words as to what the Government’s position would be.

Opposition Leader David Granger said that APNU and AFC, which make up the majority in the House, would not use its power to cut the budget indiscriminately.

APNU front Bencher Deboarh Backer said that if the Government was serious about consultation, the question of reducing the estimates would not have arisen at all. She said that ongoing talks would have resulted in a budget that could be roundly supported, though each side of the House might not get everything they want.

As far as the Finance Minister was concerned, the Government’s consultation process was enough.

It was the same Finance Minister who put the Government’s arguments in trouble. Last year, he had said that the Government would defend the right of the opposition to consider and amend the estimates, but this year, he was arguing that the opposition could not. In the end, he prayed that the opposition would not be wanton in their use of the power to vote against parts of the budget.

On Tuesday evening, the budgets for the Ministries of Agriculture, Legal Affairs and Foreign Affairs were all passed without the opposition voting any cuts.

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