APNU Member of Parliament Jaipaul Sharma this afternoon announced his resignation from the National Assembly over remarks made by Minister of Education Priya Manickchand in reference to his father CN Sharma facing statutory rape charges.
The younger Sharma, who demanded an apology from the minister after her comment on Tuesday, told reporters that he felt the ruling PPP/C would use the issue involving his father to damage the main opposition coalition.
It was while APNU Member Volda Lawrence was making her budget presentation and pointing out that men were not facing justice for statutory rape that the Minister heckled, saying, “Ask your member Sharma, your APNU chief member Sharma.” Speaker Raphael Trotman subsequently announced that he would not recognise her in the Assembly unless she apologized. Manickchand, however, stood her ground and the Speaker yesterday reversed his decision.
As a group of persons protested outside of the Public Buildings calling for the Minister to apologise, Sharma said that he thought it was the best decision to make even though he knew he sat on some of the parliamentary committees for the partnership. He was slated to make his presentation on the government’s proposed budget today. He added that while he also knows that the budget is important, he felt his decision was the right one.
The senior Sharma made an appearance at the Public Buildings today and sat in the public gallery, almost behind the Education Minister.
APNU leader David Granger, who met Sharma outside the Public Buildings yesterday, was approached by reporters for a comment on the development and he said he had not received a resignation letter from his member. (Sharma said that he sent to his resignation directly to Trotman.) Granger, however, said he would advise Sharma to reconsider his decision since he is a valuable member of the partnership and sits on important parliamentary committees.
After today’s sitting began, Trotman said that after reviewing a video leading up to and after the “minor incident,” he found that it did not refer to the APNU Member but rather for his father, CN Sharma. The Speaker pointed out that even when Jaipaul Sharma raised his objection he had indicated that he felt the comment was meant for his father and that he (the Speaker) must take note of this fact.
APNU’s Chief Whip Amna Ally, after hearing the Speaker’s new ruling, said the partnership was still demanding an apology. However, Trotman said while she could make the demand, he would not allow a debate on the issue.