A day after resigning as a Member of Parliament (MP) for main opposition APNU, Jaipaul Sharma yesterday said that he disagreed with Speaker Raphael Trotman’s justification for lifting a ban on Education Minister Priya Manickchand over comments she made that offended him.
Sharma said Trotman did not give him a chance to complete his objections to the minister’s remarks on Tuesday during the continuing budget debate, when she made an allusion to the statutory rape charges against his father. Trotman had intervened, initially censured the minister over her comment and asking her to apologise but without success, which led to the short-lived ban on her participation.
Sharma, who tendered his resignation to the National Assembly on Thursday over the remarks made by Manickchand, is also upset that Trotman delayed informing the House that he had resigned. He has since received calls from many persons who have encouraged him to rescind his resignation.
“I thought long and hard about this and, I am not a little boy, I know the decision I made,” Sharma told Stabroek News yesterday, while noting that there is a belief that he wants to hurt the partnership. He said this idea was the furthest from the truth, especially since he believed his continued presence in the National Assembly would damage APNU.
Asked if he does not believe that resignation would indeed hurt the partnership, Sharma responded in the negative, pointing out that rather he believes that his remaining there would hurt the partnership. “Priya would not give up, I would be there and she would continue. Is like I am her little toy…,” Sharma said.
On Thursday, Trotman announced his decision to lift the ban he had imposed on Manickchand, pointing out that when Sharma objected he had said that his father was being impugned and not himself.
“That is something that I reviewed and I had to take note of that. He did not feel that he was the one being impugned but that it was his father. I believe initially that it was a sitting member of this House but by Mr. Sharma’s own words he said, ‘My father’ and that is something that I must take cognizance of,” the Speaker explained.
However, Sharma disagreed with Trotman’s conclusion, pointing out that he was not allowed to complete his statement before the Speaker interrupted and then himself and the minister had a back and forth before he banned her. Sharma, who was also offended that Trotman described the issue as a “minor incident” between himself and Manickchand, said that he was the one who was offended and not his father, who was not in the House at the time.
“I feel the minister was trying to embarrass me,” Sharma said, pointing out that he nor his father are “cry a babies” and that it was never his intention to ask the minister to apologise to his father. The former parliamentarian indicated that while his father is facing statutory rape charges, he (Jaipaul) should not be crucified because of this. He also noted that the matter would be decided in a court of law and it is not for him to pronounce on the guilt or innocence of his father.
Sharma told Stabroek News that he may have been somewhat confused when he stood to his feet to object since he was not prepared for the issue and was still new to parliamentary procedures. However, he maintained that he was offended by the minister.
“I admire the Speaker and I told him this in my resignation letter. But for him to do this and not ensure the minister apologise and to try to say I was not offended, I am totally annoyed,” he explained.
He said was “hurt” over the entire situation and he revealed that he had about 40 questions to ask about the education sector during the consideration of the budget estimates and he noted that he would have been uncomfortable to pose the questions to the minister. He said that it is not the first time the minister had made mention of his father’s charges and he felt that she was making him (Jaipaul) “her toy.” The former MP said he is the only Sharma sitting in the House and the minister would be well aware that he would be the only member of the family who would be offended when she makes her remarks in the National Assembly.
He also pointed to the minister’s comments on Wednesday when she stated that she did not intend to disrupt APNU Volda Lawrence’s presentation when she made the comment and he questioned the purpose of her heckling in light of the claim. “When you heckle is to throw off the person who speaking, so if she did not want to disrupt Ms Lawrence then her intention was to offend me,” Sharma said.
He also mentioned the case last year when APNU member Vanessa Kissoon had to apologise to Minister of Works Robeson Benn after she made a comment about a relative of his who was in trouble with the law. Trotman has also repeatedly said that the family of members should not be made the business of the House.
Sharma also said that he was upset that Trotman delayed informing the House that he had resigned.
On Thursday, in announcing that that Sharma delivered his resignation letter to the Parliament Office sometime after midday on that day, Trotman said he had delayed making the announcement as he believed that the letter was not final. “Every effort should be made by all of us collectively to convince Mr Sharma that he played a very, very vital role in this House and that he is very much appreciated,” he said.
Sharma said he saw this as “eye pass” because it gave the impression that he acted rashly and did not know what he was doing. He said that it is not only Trotman who felt that his decision was not final but also many Members of the Parliament who have been calling him and indicating that he should return to Parliament.
“Why should I be getting calls at 1 and 2 o’clock in the morning telling me Sharma you should go back to Parliament?” he questioned.
Sharma admitted that he had not tendered his resignation to APNU but noted that he had indicated his decision to its Leader David Granger earlier in the day. He said how he understands the process is that he has to send the resignation to the Speaker, who would then inform the House.
He noted that he had sent the resignation early Thursday so that Trotman could make an early announcement and in turn the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) would be informed and given adequate time for a replacement to be extracted from APNU’s list of candidates. He felt that had the announcement been made early, a replacement could have been sworn in by yesterday, which was his hope. However, he said up to yesterday morning, Gecom was not officially informed of his resignation.
Sharma said he wanted his seat to be filled as quickly as possible to ensure that the estimates can be properly scrutinised. He pointed out that if there is a tie in the votes for any sector that is being considered, it would mean that the sector would have no money for the budgetary year.