It is an axiom of common sense that the conflation of political theory and practice can conduce to orderly governance and development. It is in this context that the epileptic tantrum of Speaker Trotman last week in placing a muzzle on Minister Manickchand must be seen as the clearest index of the mindset spawned in the bowels of the APNU-AFC programme for a future Guyana. With equal ease, less than 24 hours after, upon his own motion following a catharsis with no external urging, Manickchand enjoyed deserving relief! Both seat and mouth can now function unimpeded!
Had his predecessor erred in like manner he could at least blame the Clerk on whom he relied for questionable engagements with the right of an MP to function as prescribed by the Standing Orders. I write from personal experience, not as an observing bystander. As Mao Ze Dong observed slyly in a letter to his third wife, Jiang Qing, “great disorder across the land leads to great Order.”
A Speaker is bound by the Constitution of which he is a creature and the Standing Orders of which he is the operations manager. Whim does not configure as a constituent of the power inherent in the Standing Orders, which contain the latitude and longitude of his powers – (and even Mr Nagamootoo would advise caution here).
One would have expected that the debacle created by their collective, inexcusable and unlawful attempt to muzzle Minister Rohee earlier would have ordained caution but as the saying goes – easy lesson good for dunce. If the constitutional rights of condemned prisoners are protected it would seem to a layman that executive ministers are equally so entitled. Whatever the excesses of Mr Ramkarran in his apogee of constitutional attainment, he never went where only eagles dared, and Mr Trotman cannot claim that level of pedigree.
A Speaker owes his election to that position of pre-eminence to the entire National Assembly and is the representative of that august House in its powers, proceedings and dignity. He is in duty bound to act with professional restraint thereby articulating the chief characteristics of that office, ie, authority and impartiality.
As Erskine May puts it: “Confidence in the impartiality of the Speaker is an indispensable condition of the successful working of procedure. He takes no part in debate either in the House or in committee.” His powers include “repressing disorder in the House by calling Members to order.”
In all of the foregoing, it is patent that his initial pronouncement against the Minister was ultra vires and conceived in caprice and constituted an unconcealed excitation to repudiating the very policy of restraint and impartiality of his office.
Furthermore this Speaker, lured by an inquisitive pressman, declared that he considered the ruling of the Hon Chief Justice (ag) in the contentious cutting of the 2012 Budget presented by the Minister of Finance to be wrong and he has since filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal, fuelling the likely repeat action of the joint opposition. Does this accord with the principles and constraints required of that esteemed office? At a minimum, the acting Chief Justice ought to be credited for comprehending the dynamics of development – ‘a luta continua.’
Charles R Ramson
Minister of Legal Affairs (rtd)