In civilised democratic nations a Parliament is always a very high deliberative forum where laws are passed and the most important issues affecting people, both nationally and internationally, are articulated.
It is for these reasons that the precincts of our Parliament and its chambers are regarded as hallowed and sacrosanct. It is of little difference whether there are actual proceedings taking place at the time. Over centuries, an entire compendium of conventions, customs and practices have evolved, all intended and designed to protect and preserve the majesty of that institution called Parliament.
They are all applicable and are invoked during Parliamentary sessions and most specifically, when there is a sitting of the National Assembly.
These conventions, customs and practices find expression in the Constitution, the laws, Standing Orders and all leading texts dealing with Parliaments. They include certain privileges and immunities with which Parliamentarians are clothed when they are on their way to Parliament, within the precincts of Parliament or while they speak or act in the Chambers of Parliament. These include immunity from arrest, service of legal process and from suit for anything done or said in Parliament. Indeed within the precincts and Chambers of Parliament, Parliamentarians and members of the public are enjoined to adopt a sober mode of attire and the content of speeches in the National Assembly are regulated by rules which prohibit the use of certain expressions which are deemed “unparliamentary”.
It is against this backdrop that the unparalleled exhibition of Minister Simona Broomes, a sitting member of the House, must be viewed.
It is difficult to decipher whether the Honourable member was engaged in an act of humour or whether she was serious. Those of us who troll the social media would know that she was mimicking the antics of a Guyanese holidaying in Paris using the sacrosanct and sacred chambers of the National Assembly as her stage. What is perhaps most befuddling is that the Honourable member obviously did not think that what she was doing was at a minimum abnormal, if not heretic, because she took the liberty of sharing it with the world via the social medium of Facebook.
This bizarre act of a member of the House and a minister of the Government must be condemned in the strongest possible manner. It simply cannot be justified. Irrespective of which side of the political aisle one is, one will be forced to accept that such an exhibition can only bring odium and ridicule to the hallowed halls of the House and lower it as an institution in the estimation of right thinking members of the public.
The Speaker is responsible for order and decorum in the house. Regularly, Members, in particular, in the Opposition, are upbraided for their behaviour in the House. I was restrained several times from merely alluding to matters pending in the court, though I had no intention of discussing the merits of the case in a way that may prejudice its outcome—which is the rationale for not discussing matters which are the subject of pending litigation. In one instance, I was prohibited from completing my presentation because I referred to a newspaper article which I did not have on me at the time. Only recently the Speaker withheld his consent from the Economic Services Committee visiting communities and holding discussions with citizens on the future of the sugar industry. The Speaker did so on the basis that he could not be satisfied that the decorum attendant to the proceedings of Parliamentary Committees would be observed. More to the point, Members of Parliament were treated to a scathing lecture by the Speaker, not so long ago for using their phones to take pictures in the House. Now we have an entire movie broadcast to the cyber world, filmed, narrated, directed, edited, choreographed and produced by Ms. Simona Broomes.
Against this background, and based upon the sentiments of thousands of Guyanese expressed in the social media and elsewhere, a nation awaits to see how the Speaker will treat with this matter.
Mohabir Anil Nandlall
MP, Attorney-at -Law