Senate passes local government validation bill

File Photo
File Photo

THE Senate passed the Municipal Corporations (Extension of Terms of Office and Validation) Bill 2023 on Wednesday.

The bill was passed with an additional amendment.

When the House of Representatives first debated the bill on Monday, it was amended before it was passed.

That amendment, to clause five, validated the actions of councillors and aldermen between December 2, 2022 and May 18 and up to the period when the bill becomes an act of Parliament.

May 18 was the date that the Privy Council ruled that the extension of the life of local government bodies from December 2, 2022 for a year was unlawful.

The amendment made in the House on Monday also allowed councillors and aldermen to continue in office under the De Facto Officers Doctrine, which allows duly elected officials to remain in office until a new election is held.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved an additional amendment by Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, to validate the actions of councillors and aldermen only between December 2, 2022 and May 18.

The approval of this amendment by the Senate means that the House must sit again to approve this amendment before the act can be sent to President Christine Kangaloo for assent and proclaimed into law.

Only after the act is proclaimed can a date for local government elections be announced.

Before the bill was passed, the Senate rejected an amendment from Opposition Senator Wade Mark to remove clause five completely.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein made a similar request in the House on Monday. That request was rejected.

Mark also accused Armour of being in possession of the judgment three days before it was announced on May 18. He claimed because of this, local government practitioners were thrown into chaos for a week after the judgment was delivered.

When Armour asked him to explain how he could make such a claim, Mark refused to answer.

"I am not compelled to answer you!."

Armour dismissed Mark's claim.

But he said, "What I can say is that I have been advised by attorneys for the state that they had been issued a draft judgment (from the Privy Council) that they were not allowed to disclose to clients."

Armour added, "It had been disclosed to the attorneys for the purpose of the attorneys, stating whether there were any grammatic or other corrections to be made to the judgment.

"There was a very strict contempt-of-court embargo (on the draft judgment)."

Armour said the state's attorneys advised him that "if they even attempted to disclose the judgment to the client which I represented or discussed its terms, both the client and the attorneys would be held in contempt of court."

He added that for these reasons, Mark's knowledge of this "is tantamount to being in contempt of the Privy Council."

Senate President Nigel De Freitas overruled Mark's objections to Armour's comments and the bill was passed.


"Senate passes local government validation bill"

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