Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo needs to address behavioural challenges among his party’s parliamentarians as their actions in disrupting his speech to the National Assembly last month and last Monday’s ruckus in the House are disrespectful and vulgar, President David Granger says.
“I think that the treatment meted out to me on the 2nd of November was completely uncalled for and think the treatment meted out to the Speaker (on Monday) is completely uncalled for and I think that the Leader of the Opposition needs to deal with these cultural issues in his party,” Granger said yesterday at State House after accepting letters of credence for a new envoy.
As Granger last month delivered his address to the National Assembly, following its recess, opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic MPs pulled out placards and began chanting which drowned out most of his speech.
Amidst the chants and the government members’ intermittent thumping of their desks and shouts of support at some points, the president could not be heard. On a few occasions, he could be seen looking at Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland, who hit his gavel on a number of occasions to no effect. Apart from the hitting of the gavel, Scotland made no attempt to curtail the sometimes raucous behaviour of the opposition members.
“Storytelling time,” “Same speech” and “What about respect for the constitution?” were some of the jeers from the PPP/C members during Granger’s address. Jagdeo could be heard over his fellow members, asking “What about Gecom?” “Untrustworthy,” he loudly proclaimed, and “What about respect for the constitution?”
Granger would call the acts vulgar and refer to the MPs as “vulgarians” when he spoke at a People’s National Congress (PNC) meeting in Atlanta, Georgia afterwards.
Then on Monday, the Committee of Supply, which was going through Budget 2018 estimates, descended into chaos as PPP/C MPs faced off against the police over a bid to physically remove PPP/C member Juan Edghill from the parliament chamber.
Some PPP/C members claimed they were assaulted in the ensuing melee. Some were also seen assaulting policemen.
The confusion started shortly before a scheduled break in the afternoon when Scotland decided that he would allow no further questions on the estimates for the Ministry of the Presidency, since the allotted time for it had expired.
Edghill, who had a belligerent attitude throughout the morning session and at one time was cautioned for shouting, continued pointing out that there were four other agencies under the ministry and more time was needed to scrutinize the estimates.
Scotland told him to take his seat and he refused and he was then ordered to be removed from the House since he was out of order.
A defiant Edghill shouted that he was not leaving and as Scotland called for the Sergeant-at-Arms to escort him out, he took his seat and refused to be moved.
As the Sergeant-at-Arms remonstrated with him, Edghill, with the support of his colleagues, remained seated. Scotland informed that the Sergeant-at-Arms should seek assistance and left the chamber.
The police were called in and some opposition members claimed they physically assaulted them. The ruckus resulted in the adjournment of Monday’s proceedings but PPP/C parliamentarians remained in the parliament chamber with Edghill until late into the night in a show of solidarity with him.
It is still unclear who called the police and Scotland on Monday evening said it was not him and when approached the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, said he was unaware.
Granger said that he hopes that it is the first and last time such chaos is seen in parliament.
“This is the level of vulgarity I referred to since the 2nd of November. We have never seen it before and I hope we never see it again. Vulgarity is vulgarity you know, and there is no place for that in the National Assembly. There is a very poor display on the part of Mr. Edghill and his colleagues and to demonstrate to the public and to our children that the honourable house should be seen as such a disorderly show,” he said.
“I can’t imagine that the Chancellor of the Judiciary would have to put up with that in the High Court. She is the head. I can’t believe that the Speaker would have to be faced with that form of vulgarity. We have three branches of government, the judicial, legislative and executive, and every branch has its head and the head of the legislative branch must be treated with respect. We don’t treat the chancellor like that, we don’t treat the speaker like that and we don’t treat the president like that,” he added.
He said that he doesn’t have a problem meeting with the opposition at any time about any matter he wants to raise with him and discussions of a way of resolving the matter would be acquiesced.