PPP condemns ruling by Deputy Speaker on bridge motion

The PPP has condemned Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Clarissa Riehl for disallowing an intervention by Prime Minister Sam Hinds at Tuesday’s sitting of National Assembly to close debate on a PNCR-1G motion criticizing the PPP/C Government’s plans for the design and construction of the Berbice Bridge.

During the debate on Tuesday on the motion brought by PNCR-1G backbencher James McAllister, the Prime Minister rose to speak under Standing Order 39 (2) on the said motion and was disallowed by the Deputy Speaker. The motion was eventually defeated in the National Assembly as the PPP/C has a comfortable majority. The foundation of the PNCR-1G motion was an assessment undertaken by Patricio Millan Development Consultants Inc of the feasibility study that

The Louis Berger Group completed. Plans on the location, design and construction of the bridge were grounded in the feasibility study that The Louis Berger Group completed. According to McAllister, the Patricio Millan review of the Louis Berger study found that the latter had grossly underestimated costs of construction and maintenance.

McAllister’s motion so-ught to have the National Assembly rule that construction of the bridge be halted for three months until the Econo-mic Services Commit-tee (ESC) of Parlia-ment re-viewed the findings of the Patricio Millan report.

Riehl, a PNCR-1G MP, who is sitting in for Speaker Ralph Ramkarran who is away on medical leave, said when contacted yesterday by Stabroek News that she will reserve her comment on the PPP statement for Parliament.

The PPP release said Riehl’s ruling was “a breach of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly. Standing Order No. 39 Right of Reply clauses 1 and 2 [state] as follows ‘(1) The mover of a motion may reply after all the members present have had an opportunity of addressing the assembly and before the question is put, and after such reply no other member may speak, except as provided in paragraph 2 of this Standing Order. (2) A Minister may conclude the debate on any motion which is critical of the Government or reflects adversely on or is calculated to bring discredit upon the Government or a Government officer’.”

The release said that the Standing Order permits a Minister of Government whether he is the mover of a motion or not to close a debate.

“There is no ambiguity in this clause and the Deputy Speaker knows this. Only a week ago at a training session conducted by the Common-wealth Parliamen-tary As-sociation’s [three-man] delegation this question was raised by the PNCR-1G MPs and they were told explicitly that a Minister always [has] that right,” the PPP said.

According to the release, that particular Standing Order was taken completely from the Standing Orders of the UK Parliament “and furthermore, it has existed in our Standing Orders for a long time.”

The release said that this was undoubtedly a partial political decision which shows that “despite all the lip service given by the PNC to Parliamentary democracy, they are prepared to trample on the Standing Orders whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is the nature of the PNCR.”

McAllister in a comment yesterday said that the PNCR-1G was of the view that the PPP/C attempted to use the Standing Order to usurp authority in Parliament. PNCR-1G MP Winston Murray, in a comment on the ruling, said that the Standing Order is clear that the motion has to be critical of the Government. He said that this was not the case with the motion that McAllister put forward and that the PPP/C behaviour in the National Assembly on Tuesday was far from satisfactory.

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