Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Barton Scotland said last night that PPP/C Parliamentarian Juan Edghill has been suspended after unprecedented chaos in the House yesterday and he said he was unaware that the police had been called into deal with the unrest. (See other story on page 20.)
Scotland was at the time addressing members of the media on his decision to suspend the 79th sitting of the National Assembly due to “gross misconduct” by the Edghill.
After chronicling the events that led to yesterday’s incident, the Speaker who was at the time reading from a prepared statement said that Edghill has been suspended. Meanwhile, the 79th sitting will continue today. The opposition PPP/C had occupied Parliament Chambers up to 10 last night to ensure that Edghill was not evicted and it is unclear what their next step will be.
Elaborating on the decision to suspend Edghill from the National Assembly, the Speaker was adamant that he acted in accordance with procedures of the House, specifically Standing Order 47 (2), which states, “The Speaker or the Chairperson shall order any Member whose conduct is grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the Assembly during the remainder of that day’s sitting and may direct such steps to be taken as are required to enforce this order. But if, on any occasion, the Speaker or the Chairperson considers that his or her powers under the previous provision of this Standing Order are inadequate, the Speaker or Chairperson may name such Member for disregarding the authority of the Chair under this Standing Order, in which event the procedure prescribed in the next paragraph should be followed.”
“The honourable member Edghill refused to withdraw from the chamber and the speaker then directed the Sergeant at Arms to take such steps as are required to enforce his order. At this stage the Speaker withdrew from his chair in the Assembly and the sitting was suspended to allow the order to be carried out. I understand that police arrived and attempted to remove honourable Edghill but were prevented from doing so by members of the opposition. As far as I know, this is the first time in the history of our parliament that a member has refused to withdraw from the chamber upon order of the speaker,” Scotland said.
He further pointed out that such standing orders were in place before his entry as Speaker of the House.
In response to questions regarding Edghill’s suspension being lifted, the Speaker said, “I think Mr. Edghill knows what he has to do. You must forgive me for not answering that more directly. I know Mr. Edghill knows what he has to do.”
When asked to give some depth to the statement for the benefit of the public, the speaker said “I will not answer that directly or better than I am doing so now. That question I will not do that.”
Meanwhile, in responding to questions about who instructed police to enter the National Assembly yesterday, Scotland said, “I have no authority to order the police. If there is disorder is in House, then order has to be restored, but no I don’t have no authority order the police…. I will only tell you that I didn’t even know the police were here until I saw them.”
He noted that Edghill was disallowed from continuing asking questions, since the procedures on time were discussed and agreed to during a meeting from which the Opposition left.
“The procedures for the consideration of time on each agency were discussed and agreed to during a meeting of the whole. Members of the opposition had absented themselves on the meeting of the committee of the whole,” Scotland added.
He further noted that as Speaker of the National Assembly, he will continue to act “correctly and fairly,” noting that “If I have to question you, if I have to upbraid you, I will do it.”
Meanwhile, in response to a question posed regarding other options being used to resolve the issue, Scotland said even in hindsight he does not see a better way of resolving the issue, other than suspending Edghill.