Managing the Paramountcy of Parliament

Frankly Speaking…

A President by Lottery?
I’ve persuaded myself to make this two–cents contribution to the 2011 post – elections era as it is unfolding.

I tended to feel redundant, unnecessary, as I view the daily, numerous print – media outpourings on the varied issues related to the current and the expected outcomes of the New Parliament, especially.

That Guyanese, both within the borders and overseas–based, are enriched with the insightful, the analytical and the eloquence to articulate their political understandings, opinions and proposals, is obvious. Just reading their views on such (exciting) issues as “national unity government,” opposition strategy in a Parliament wherein it has the majority and (parliamentary) challenges and opportunities, is a rewarding pastime.

So as we read, agree, disagree and digest, let’s be heartened by the fact that this new dispensation has awakened a renewed interest in elections, government and most refreshing of all, our parliament.

Incidentally, just what is Parliament? (I can boast that, years before this last election, I had to research and explore the history, nature and functions of our Parliament – from the status and role of the speaker, the members, the officials, the numerous Committees, to the fate of legislation passed.) One simple, fundamental fact for you to store: Guyana’s Parliament, put simply, is made up of the President and the National Assembly. Consider that basic structure. The President, who does not feature in the actual (House of) Assembly, is one vital constituent of what we know as our “Parliament”. Hence Mr. Ramotar’s vital standing, status and significance.

When all is said and done in the Parliament’s house, Mr. Ramotar’s assent (Signature) is a must before the M.P.’s approved law(s) can come into force! Recall that Mr. Jagdeo took his own sweet time to assent to some laws passed. If I’m not wrong, I think he never signed on to a law related to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation (?)

Now imagine our powerful “minority” President not assenting to laws sent to him. Don’t despair. There are remedies for even that eventuality. (The unsigned Billed has to be returned to the Speaker within 21 days with reasons for withholding of assent. Two–thirds of the Assembly can then return the Bill to the President within six months. He then has 90 more days to sign it. Of course, a Bill could be amended or re–written for debate and submission.)
But shrewd, co-operative management of the Assembly can avoid unnecessary pitfalls. Management?

Managing Parliament’s Paramountcy
I suppose I don’t mean the actual, procedural management of the House by the Parliament Office, the speaker and the two Chief Whips.
I am referring to the unprecedented Parliamentary era of give – and – take, compromise and collaboration which government and the powerful majority opposition have to execute in the  name of the people who put them all in that National Assembly.

This Tuesday Stabroek News, in discussing the election of a new speaker, presented those interested with the “uncharted waters” of the numerous parliamentary committees and how these key groups of parliamentarians should be constituted. These committees are even more vital in this type of Parliament. They, in fact, can make the Assembly’s work smoother and speedier. I can imagine the three parties briefing their new M.P.’s right now. (Who’s for which Committee?). The Parliament Office’s work is also now interestingly challenging!

But over this past weekend, on an APNU TV discussion, I heard the WPA’S re–incarnated Dr. Roopnaraine – “People’s power, no dictator, no GECOM” – planning to get a copy of the late President Jagan’s Opening Address to the brand new Parliament of 1992.

Renaissance man, Dr. Rupert, was hailing Dr. Jagan’s remark that there should be, post’- 92, the paramountcy of the parliament and not the ascendancy or paramountcy of any one Party. Dr. Rupert would surely hold strong views on Dr. Cheddi’s hope during the 19 years since’ 92!

I agree too with Mr. Granger when he spoke of our too–long experience of “An over–bearing executive”. It’s time for the “legislative” to assert its power on the people’s behalf.

Within the “management” of Parliament’s re–configuration lies the potential for extreme good. And destructive bad, if there is no responsible, negotiated compromise. The Majority Opposition has to be responsible on the nation’s behalf. It shouldn’t seek merely to score political points but to support all that could be identified as constructive and progressive. After all, the government side must now be painfully aware of its limitations. In and out of parliament! (Who needs new elections?)

(For now, I’d love to volunteer to teach the populace about the workings of Parliament’s National Assembly, a project, I helped to prepare years ago. Along with Roopnaraine’s inclination for the debates to be televised live, the nation may now be really interested in what goes on in that place.)

A President by Lottery?
Perhaps it could have actually happened! But I suppose that would have been, say, a 342,236 – to – one chance; 342,236 being the number of valid votes cast on November 28 last (national).

Articles 177 to 182 of the current constitution tell us all about the Presidency and the President. And would you believe it? Article 177, dealing with the election of a President, at (3) says that “where the votes cast in favour of each of two or more lists are equal in number” GECOM’S Chairman, in the presence of the Chancellor and the Public, “shall, by lot choose one the lists in respect of which the votes are equal … and shall declare the presidential candidate of that list to be the duly elected President!”

There you have it a President by Lottery and a Recipe for Chaos in the Beautified, Blighted Land.

Added to the above, I was somewhat alarmed to learn that there are electoral circumstances whereby GECOM could award a 66th seat! More bacchanal, if that was necessary.

I agree: peace without justice should not be an option. But who defines or decides upon “justice”?
How I longed to experience a stepping–out–of–the–box for the new cabinet. No such luck for me.

I await to see how the new Parliament will implement the Constitution’s Article 13 which dictates “inclusionary democracy”. Friendly “organisations”? Or genuine, professional and responsible civic groups?

At last! West Indies Captain Sammy did something besides spinning the coin!
Til next week!

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