An emergency hearing in the challenge to the Natural Resource Fund Act by Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones and trade unionist Norris Witter was called on Wednesday, after High Court Judge, Navindra Singh found ‘serious allegation’ which dispute the facts.
In paragraphs 32 and 42 of an affidavit submitted by Roysdale Forde, SC, on behalf of Jones and Witter, it was alleged that the House Speaker Manzoor Nadir deprived Opposition Parliamentarians of participating in debates on the NRF Bill.
This, according to Justice Singh is “serious allegation,” and as such, instructed the parties to meet again on July 7 to draft a joint statement of agreed facts. This is followed by arguments on the preliminary issue on July 15.
Jones and Witter had approached the court challenging the validity of the Natural Resource Fund Act, which the National Assembly passed in December 2021.
A case management was held on April 13 and Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, SC, had asked for the matter to be struck out as it is entirely without basis and lacks merit.
Among the grounds upon which the Act is being challenged is that there was no consultation prior to the passage of the legislation. But Nandlall argued that Parliament’s legislative power is not subject to any requirement that there must be a consultation.
The Minister said that if consultation is a requirement, then the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration would have widely consulted between 2015 to 2020 on the Natural Resource Fund law while in Opposition.
In fact, he added that the manifesto on which the PPP/C campaigned spoke of a Natural Resource Fund law.
During the passage of the Natural Resource Fund Bill, Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) were seen blowing whistles and chanting loudly, "no thieving bill must pass," and even stole the speaker’s mace.
The Privileges Committee of the National Assembly has been given up to June 1 to submit its report on what sanctions, if any, should be taken against the eight members who participated in grabbing the mace.