Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman says he intends to meet with representatives from both government and opposition, in an effort to avert potential gridlock in the consideration of the PPP/C’s outstanding extra-budgetary spending from last year.
“As Speaker, I would like to work with both sides to avoid us having gridlock at the next sitting,” Trotman told Stabroek News recently. He said he will be speaking with the subject ministers and the relevant members on both sides of the House to avoid an absolute stalemate on parliamentary approval of the two financial papers that were recently delayed. He opined that such a stalemate would not be healthy given that the budget is likely to follow shortly after. Both sides, Trotman said, do not really want gridlock and he indicated his intention to play a facilitating role in this regard. Gridlock, he said, would not be in the best national interest. “The national interest must be paramount,” he declared.
Trotman was overseas when APNU and the AFC used their one-seat majority to delay the approval of Financial Paper 7/2011 and Financial Paper 8/2011—intended to clear outstanding spending from last year—over concerns about the legality of some spending. The opposition voted against four items during the examination of Financial Paper 7/2011. When it came to the second
financial paper, the opposition parties asked that it be withdrawn by the government and brought back at a later date with information that would be more specific and in keeping with the law. The government had objected, saying that the information provided was adequate and in accordance with the law. The House was subsequently adjourned until March 15, when the papers would come up again for consideration.
Trotman opined that both sides of the House by now should have realised the extents and limits of their respective powers and it is clear that it cannot be business as usual. Given the new configuration of the National Assembly, he added that it is clear that both sides will have to use their power in concert. He acknowledged that what plays out in Parliament will impact on the wider country especially in the aftermath of last years polls. “The country after the elections gained some sort of momentum and whatever we do we must not lose it,” Trotman said.
The opposition, Trotman said, must be careful that it doesn’t use its power to bring the government down. He said too that various government officials through public statements have also indicated that the government wants some sort of help. He referred to Finance Minister Ashni Singh’s statement that the government found itself in “uncharted territory,” after the opposition voted against the approval of some supplementary provisions, as a plea for help.
Another significant statement, according to Trotman, was made by Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon, when he admitted that there are financial irregularities and that the Public Accounts Committee needed to play a role in addressing them. Trotman said that these were signs that the government and opposition could cooperate.