-gag motion not yet on Order Paper
Amid pressure to attend to other parliamentary business, the opposition parties are working on strategies to isolate Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee as they seek to give effect to a no-confidence motion passed against him.
Passage of an APNU-crafted motion to prevent the minister from speaking in the National Assembly is seen as crucial to this but it is not on the Order Paper being circulated for Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly. However, it could be included on a supplementary Order Paper. Noting that they have taken a stance on Rohee’s position in the House, Leader of the Opposition, David Granger told Stabroek News when contacted yesterday that they will examine “every legitimate means of securing our agenda.”
The opposition political parties-APNU and AFC- are expected to meet before Thursday’s sitting to decide their strategy. The last parliamentary sitting was prematurely adjourned by the Speaker Raphael Trotman, after opposition members chanted loudly to prevent Rohee’s second reading of the Firearms Amendment Bill 2012. The Bill is included for second reading at Thursday’s sitting.
Granger said that APNU has crafted a motion to prevent Rohee from speaking which will be shared with the AFC and they hope to meet before Thursday’s sitting. He pointed out that they have taken a stance on Rohee’s position in the House and emphasized that they will examine all parliamentary options. Their position on Rohee has not changed, he said, adding that the minister does not enjoy the confidence of the House.
Meantime, AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan also said that his party wants to meet with APNU to work on a strategy on the Rohee issue among others. He also did not recall seeing the APNU motion on the Order Paper but said that it remains to be seen if it will be included for the next sitting on a supplementary order paper.
With the Firearms Bill also on the Order Paper, Ramjattan said that they would want the motion to come up first and passed. “It should mean that before Rohee stands to talk on his Firearms (Bill) we would have dealt with that matter,” he said. The combined opposition holds a one-seat majority in the 65-seat National Assembly.
In terms of dealing with the other business of the House, Ramjattan emphasized that he is working on a provisional strategy where Rohee would speak but the AFC parliamentarians would not support his Bills. “We intend to ensure that none of his Bills are supported by the AFC,” he said. “I don’t feel we are going to be part and parcel of making noise in parliament,” he added, referring to the last sitting when the opposition drowned out Rohee as he attempted to speak. Ramjattan said that they were taking their cue from former Presidents, the late Dr. Cheddi and Janet Jagan hence their action but they also have responsibilities and want to get the business of the House done. He emphasized that they would want to ensure that none of the legislation presented by Rohee is passed and go on with the other business.
Ramjattan noted that the opposition is united on the Rohee issue and want their no-confidence motion to be given weight.
The opposition in July used its majority to adopt a motion expressing no-confidence in and calling for the removal of Rohee from his ministerial post. The government has filed a constitutional motion challenging the vote.
Speaker Trotman had sought advice on the enforceability of the motion and later communicated to the House that President Donald Ramotar is not bound by the passage of the motion and Rohee can continue to perform his functions as the motion does not bind either the minister or the Prime Minister to obey it.
The opposition has said the decent thing to do in such circumstances would have been for Rohee to follow the convention and resign. APNU has said that until Rohee resigns they will entertain no bill laid by him, extend no courtesies to him as a speaker and approve no monies for his ministries.
Ramjattan said yesterday that the opposition is united on the issue. “This has huge implications on the convention of individual ministerial responsibility,” he said. He said that there is precedence here and referred to the resignations of former Finance Minister, Asgar Ally and former Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj. He also recounted that when he was a minister, former PNCR Leader, Robert Corbin had stepped aside to allow investigations after rape allegations were levelled against him.
With regards to the APNU motion to gag Rohee, Ramjattan at an AFC press conference last week, said that it ought to be understood that the opposition was not seeking to have Rohee removed from the National Assembly but rather to bar him from speaking during sessions in his capacity as Home Affairs Minister. He had said that Rohee is a duly-elected assemblyman and therefore cannot be prevented from being in the National Assembly.
He, however, added that the convention of ministerial responsibility demands his resignation or his dismissal by the president. Ramjattan said that since Rohee is not going to be resigning and since the president is not going to dismiss him, the opposition will take the necessary action. “Our whole contention here is that since he has a no-confidence motion against him as minister, he ought not to have been allowed to speak in the National Assembly,” he had explained.
The AFC leader had said that Trotman had indicated that Rohee cannot speak in Parliament if a substantive motion is passed directed to that objective. “To that extent, the AFC, in its quest to ensure that the no-confidence motion is given meaning, will support a motion to that effect that Rohee be disallowed… from speaking on any matters as Minister of Home Affairs,” he had said.