Ramkarran should be retained as Speaker

Dear Editor,

It is heartening to read your front page headline news (SN, Dec 8) that four individuals (one each from the PPP and APNU and two from the AFC) are interested in being the Speaker of the new parliament which will be constituted very soon as well as the news item that the Speaker will be selected by consensus (SN, Dec 9). The person who will be selected Speaker should be able to command the respect of the entire National Assembly.

There are only two persons I can think of who command the respect of all the parties in the assembly – Messrs Moses Nagamootoo and Ralph Ramkarran. The Speaker must be able to gain the trust of MPs on both sides and make judgments based on parliamentary precedents and the law. He or she must have the competence to rule motions and submissions in order or out of order. He must not show favour or be biased. He must be able to lead others in addition to performing ceremonial duties and chairing meetings of the House and committees as well as overseeing the parliament. He or she must ensure the rules of the House, called Standing Orders, are being observed correctly. Mr Ramkarran has shown he has met those criteria based on his performance so far.

Historically, a Speaker is usually chosen on the recommendation of the governing party or coalition.  However, in the new parliament the governing party is in a minority and it will require a majority of the 65 members to elect the Speaker. The combined opposition has one seat more than the ruling party but the PPP has the largest bloc of votes.  So selecting the Speaker will be a major challenge.

Being Speaker in Guyana has not been an easy job. It is a tough position not for the faint hearted. Mr Ramkarran served some 8 years as Speaker, and although a PPP nominee, proved to be independent and presided over the chamber fairly.  Everyone, from all sides, held him and still holds him in regard, and speaks with him freely about their views.  There had not been any complaint against him by the opposition parties.  Ironically, it was the governing PPP that complained about him believing that he had been too liberal with the opposition parties.

I think Mr Ramkarran should be retained if for no other reason than he will not be controversial and will not rock the boat. Moses Nagamootoo will also make an excellent Speaker but given his defection from the PPP, which cost the ruling party a majority in parliament, there may be bad blood between him and former colleagues. I think Moses will be fair in line with his political reputation as a writer, MP, minister and lawyer. He has been in parliament for decades and is well respected among the opposition and the governing benches.  The other two prospects, Raphael Trotman and Deborah Backer do not have the debating parliamentary experience of Ramkarran and Nagamootoo.  Mr Trotman and Ms Backer have not been tested as much as the two old heroes who served the country so well for decades and in whom the MPs will put greater trust.  In addition, Messrs Ramkarran and Nagamootoo are respected by all ethnic groups.  The former in particular has huge support among the middle, professional and business classes while the latter is well liked among the working class.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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