The main opposition APNU has accused the PPP/C administration of attempting to manipulate the parliamentary committees after a scheduled meeting of the Committee of Selection of Parliament was cancelled yesterday—a contention that the ruling party has rejected.
APNU’s Chief Whip Amna Ally told reporters at a briefing at Congress Place yesterday that the meeting was for the nomination of the members of the parliamentary committees. She said they received a call from Parliament Office and were told that the meeting was rescheduled for March 12. “No reason was given for this rescheduling,” she said.
“Utter rubbish,” was the response by PPP/C Chief Whip Gail Teixeira when contacted by Stabroek News. She said the PPP/C members were busy yesterday and Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman was contacted and he rescheduled the meeting to March 12. She said there have been many occasions in the past when the parties in Parliament have asked for meetings to be postponed for one reason or the other.
The government and opposition have been at loggerheads recently over the composition of the Com- mittee of Selection. The PPP wanted to have 10 members with the party having five representatives while APNU and the AFC wanted 9 members with the four PPP representatives, four APNU representatives and an AFC representative. The Committee of Selection decides the composition of the other parliamentary committees.
“Without the appointment of the members of these committees, we cannot proceed with parliamentary assignments,” such as to scrutinize and examine the work of government, Ally said. She said the opposition wants the committees to be able to make definitive decisions hence the promotion of nine-member committees.
Ally noted that on February 24, the elected Committee of Selection met for the purpose of electing members to various committees of the Parliament. She said that at that meeting, after intense arguments, it was agreed that the numbers of the composition of the committees be changed from ten to nine members and this was carried by the majority of members of the Committee of Selection.
The Committee of Selection complied with every section of the Standing Orders of the Parliament which is in consonance with the Constitution of Guyana, Ally said. “The computation of the allocation of committee’s seats to Parliamentary Parties is reflected in Standing Order 94(1) which states: ‘Every select committee shall be constituted as to ensure, as far as possible, that the balance of parties in the Assembly is reflected in the committee’,” she stated. The combined opposition has a one-seat majority in Parliament.
Ally said after it was agreed that the committee would be reduced to nine members, APNU and the AFC nominated their members while the PPP/C refused to nominate its representatives.
She recalled that the Speaker “proceeded on a historical review at this meeting” and suggested that the matter be discussed at the tripartite level. The matter was raised at that forum and the opposition is unmoved to change its proposal of nine members committees, Ally said.
Teixeira too noted that the issue was raised at the tripartite talks but no progress was made. She also observed that APNU seemed to be speaking on behalf of the AFC.
Ally said in an effort to avoid gridlock and impasse, APNU and the AFC are convinced that the nine members committee is most likely to represent the public interest and to advance the work of the National Assembly. She said the parties are calling on the PPP/C administration to respect the results of the electorate and proceed with the business of governance. “We condemn the fact that the administration is attempting to manipulate the committees. Hence, we call on the administration to illustrate magnanimity by co-operating with the reality,” she declared.
She said the parties are also calling on the Speaker, who is also the Chairman of the Committee of Selection, to execute his function “without fear or favour, affection or ill will. We acknowledge all historical facts but the work of the Parliament must go on. The people of Guyana expect good governance.”
APNU MP Volda Lawrence added that they are looking to get on with the business of Parliament and they expect government to move away from its present position. She recalled that President Donald Ramotar, in his address to Parliament, spoke of cohesion and working together.
“This is the time for the government to show that not only are they going to talk, but they are also going to walk the walk,” she said.