Government Chief Whip Amna Ally yesterday brushed aside criticisms by the opposition that the government had ulterior motives in postponing Parliament, telling Stabroek News that multiple sittings of the House are planned for December although she could not name a date.
She said, “You can expect a sitting. I cannot give you a date right now but we are going to have more than one next month.”
Ally added, “We are not trying to avoid anything. The opposition’s work is to criticise so they have been doing that by and large… We expect that of them.”
She was responding to questions by Stabroek News on whether there was any credence to the opposition’s statement that the government had postponed the November 12 sitting to avoid the PPP’s motion calling for the annulment of The Minis-ters, Members of the National Assembly and Special Offices (Emolu-ments) Order No16 of 2015, which catered for the recent salary increases.
“We are not afraid to deal with the motion. We are going to,” Ally stated. She said that the government did not have to justify the postponement of Parliament without providing an alternative fixed date, but insisted, “We see Parliament as important.”
The last sitting of the National Assembly was on October 22 and the government postponed the November 12 sitting to enable the attendance of Members of Parliament at important conferences abroad. The request was at the behest of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo by way of a letter to House Speaker Dr Barton Scotland.
At the last sitting the PPP had attempted to table a parliamentary motion for a reversal of the increases of the highly contentious ministerial salaries. It had wanted the motion placed on the Order Paper for the October 22 sitting, but this was not allowed by Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs. He had explained that the motion could not be laid until after the Order, made by the Minister of Finance and issued under the Ministers, Members of the National Assembly and Special Offices (Emoluments) Act, was laid in the House.
In response to critics who compared the government’s postponement of the National Assembly to that of the former PPP/C’s prorogation, Ally stated, “Look we were not able to convene Parliament as we had planned, this is nothing to do with prorogation. We were just not able to have a sitting.”
While the two scenarios do not bear the same political weight, critics did note that the government should have designated an alternative date and not left the next possible sitting in limbo.
The PPP had lambasted the government’s request to postpone the Parliament. In a statement, it said the request to reschedule the sitting exposed the coalition government’s “whimsical regard” for the National Assembly and its business.
Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira told Stabroek News yesterday that the PPP remained “very concerned” that no date has been identified for a sitting of the National Assembly. She noted that since the government had cited MPs travel as the reason for the postponement, given hectic travel schedules in early December it is not foreseeable that a sitting will be held within the first week.
Teixeira said that while government may not have business to be conducted in the Parliament that should not impede the opposition’s work. She noted that currently only the Public Accounts Committee is fully functioning and it has met multiple times this week. The Parliament Management Committee also had its first meeting.
Meanwhile, Isaacs confirmed that he was yet to receive a date that would allow the National Assembly to reconvene and beyond that he could not provide any additional information.