APNU Member of Parliament Deborah Backer has said that the coalition’s support for the postponement of the Committee of Privileges meeting to address the powers of the House in relation to preventing embattled Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee from speaking was in keeping with an earlier decision by Speaker Raphael Trotman.
“We were in favour either way,” she said in a comment to this newspaper on Friday. “If you go back slightly… there was a motion on the floor and the Speaker ruled that he would not allow the motion to proceed but that he would send it to the Committee of Privileges for it to determine what powers the House has vis-à-vis Rohee and his speaking and not speaking,” Backer explained.
“Subsequently the Speaker announced that the Committee of Privileges will not sit once the matter is in court. We were, therefore, very surprised when we got a notice to attend the meeting. As we speak today, the court case is still ongoing,” she added.
“We asked the Speaker what the position is because our understanding is that ‘your decision is that once the High Court matter is pending the Committee of Privileges will not sit. Are you now changing this ruling? If you are not then I don’t think that we could properly sit,’” she said.
Backer pointed out that APNU and the PPP/C had the same position on the matter. “What changed was the Speaker’s position since he said not until the court matter finished, then he decided that we would still go on and we said no,” she said. “If your ruling is that we cannot go on then how could we go on?” she asked.
“All we did was draw to the Speaker’s attention the fact that the court case was still pending… He accepted that this is what he said and that was the end of the matter,” she said.
Speaker Trotman had deferred last Monday’s meeting of the Committee of Privileges in accordance with the wishes of APNU and the PPP/C as to the unsuitability of proceeding with the meeting in the light of the ongoing court order.
Trotman last week had told this newspaper that he convened the meeting because the ruling from acting Chief Justice Ian Chang was not a final one and because he wanted to explore what would be the implications for the Parliament. He said that he had received information from the House of Commons in the UK and the House of Representatives in Australia for guidance.
He noted that while he wanted to go ahead and explore those implications, APNU and the PPP/C thought it best to await the conclusions of the court on the matter.
“The two sides said that they preferred to wait and so I deferred to them. The matter is now sine die [put down indefinitely] in the committee,” he said.
On January 15, Trotman had said acting Chief Justice Ian Chang’s ruling on the move to gag Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee is not binding on him or the National Assembly. He said that he would be filing proceedings to further clarify the court’s authority over the legislature.
On Friday January 11, Justice Chang found that Rohee as an elected member has a right to speak in the National Assembly. However, his ruling appeared to leave the question of his speaking to the Speaker of the National Assembly and the procedures of the House.
The opposition parties continue to maintain their stance against Rohee since the adoption of a motion of no-confidence tabled by Leader of the Opposition David Granger last year.