Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Parliamentary committees’ make-up must reflect parties’ seat allocation – Attorney General

EVER since the commencement of the Tenth Parliament, the government and the opposition have been diametrically opposed to a number of issues. One issue on the government’s side is the composition of the parliamentary committees, which it feels is not being done according to the principle of proportionality.

On March 7, government through the Attorney General moved to the High Court to challenge the manner in which those committees are being set up and piloted primarily by the opposition.
Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, in a recent programme on the National Communications Network explained that government’s High Court motion challenges the manner in which the opposition in parliament is moving in constituting the committees.
“It is contended in the motion on the part of the government that the composition of the committees violates the principle of proportionality,” the Attorney General said.
In Guyana, the electoral system is based on proportionality.
“It is recognised expressly in the constitution and the laws of Guyana…essentially seats are allocated in the National Assembly to the parties that have contested the elections based on the principle of proportionality…the number of votes you get is proportional to the seats that you will receive,” the Attorney General explained.
He added that the PPP/C has been allocated 32 seats, whilst APNU has 26 and the AFC 7, which is based on and proportionate to the number of votes that they received at the last general elections.
“A mathematical calculation of the percentage of seats in the National Assembly will reveal that the PPP, with its 32 seats, controls 49.2% of the seats in parliament which is nearly 50%…as such, it is only fair, logical and constitutional that we get that percentage of representation in the committee stage…that is what the motion seeks to do,” Minister Nandlall said.
He said the standing orders tell that these committees can consist of not less than 6 and not more than 10 members, therefore the standing orders itself, in recognising the principle of proportionality, has given the National Assembly a degree of flexibility to find a composition that is as close as possible to the makeup of the House so as to capture this principle.

‘We will never try to manipulate or control the work of the committees of parliament…that is not our intention…all we are saying is that we have the most seats in terms of party and that must be reflected in the committees.’ - Minister Anil Nandlall

“We are saying that a size of 10 would best reflect the composition of the National Assembly…PPP would get 5 seats equivalent to its 50% seats, APNU 4 and AFC 1. However, the opposition is using nine and the allocation runs as follows- PPP-4, APNU-4 and AFC 1…this violates the principle of proportionality and is disproportionate to the percentage of seats which we have in the National Assembly because we have 50% of the seats and 4 is not a reflection of the percentage…they are equating us with APNU who has 40% of the seats and there is a 30,000 vote difference between 40% of APNU and 49.2% of the PPP…that is in violation of the proportionality principle which the constitution embraces…that is what we are seeking to rectify in the court, hoping that parliament can constitute the committees in a manner that is contemplated, provided for and captured by the constitution,” Minister Nandlall said.


Minister Nandlall said the committees of parliament undertake very important work; as such their composition must reflect the make-up of the National Assembly as it sits to undertake its work.
“The committees have a very important role to play in our parliamentary system, they are responsible for monitoring government’s policy and scrutinising the conduct of government…that is a role that the administration recognises and has set up most of these committees and made them functional…we have amended the standing order to give the committees more powers…every aspect of government is reviewable by the committee system which we have in place,” Minister Nandlall said.
Some of the committees that exist are: a foreign relations, natural resources, economic services, public accounts and constitutional reform.
“We will never try to manipulate or control the work of the committees of parliament…that is not our intention…all we are saying is that we have the most seats in terms of party and that must be reflected in the committees,” Minister Nandlall said.

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