The Office of the Leader of the Opposition today decried a move to block PPP/C MP Juan Edghill’s attendance at Parliament on January 10 as a result of a reputed error in computing his suspension for disorderly behaviour.
A statement from the Office of the Leader of the Opposition follows:
Despite the motion moved by Minister Amna Ally on December 12, 2017 which specifically called for the suspension of Member of Parliament Bishop Juan Edghill from the business of the National Assembly until December 15, 2017, which read:
“following gross disorderly conduct of the Honourable Member, Bishop Juan Edghill, I wish to refer to standing order 47(3) and move that this member be suspended from the service of the assembly for the next four sittings of this assembly which is December 15, 2017.” This motion would have had to have the approval of the Speaker before it was tabled as all motions. This motion was adopted by the government one seat majority as the first order of business of the adjourned 79th sitting on December 12, 2017.
The opposition was then disallowed from asking any questions on the Estimates for the 2018 Budget totaling $23B listed on the Order Paper for the 79th sitting which was passed in a short time. In fact, by taking such measures, the entire opposition was punished by preventing its MPs from scrutinizing six Ministries. The Speaker then commenced the 80th sitting and the Estimates listed for that sitting.
The Parliamentary Opposition was shocked to learn by way of letter dated January 4th, 2018 that the Member Bishop Edghill cannot attend the sitting on January 10th, 2018 due to a mistake made by the Parliament Office in calculating when the suspension commenced.
The Speaker appears to have assumed the responsibility, not provided for, to interpret a Member’s motion. Minister Ally’s motion included a date of when the suspension would come to an end, December 15, 2017. Therefore, there is no doubt or ambiguity as to the commencement of the suspension at the sitting on December 12, 2017. If Minister Ally’s motion did not include the date of the conclusion of the suspension, one may be tempted to understand the need for the Speaker’s intervention to interpret the motion as to when the suspension began and ended.
However, one must remember that on Tuesday December 12, 2017 prior to the commencement of the adjourned 79th sitting ( and hence prior to the motion of Minister Ally being tabled and passed), Bishop Edghill was prevented from coming to the Parliament Buildings and arrested at the traffic lights approximately 100 feet from the gates of the Parliament compound. Therefore, the suspension was in effect on Tuesday December 12th.
In fact, the Parliament Office under the hand of the Clerk of the National Assembly wrote the Member on December 12, 2017 suspending him for four (4) sittings from the 79th sitting, the very sitting which Minister Aly brought the motion of suspension. Therefore the letter was in keeping with the motion brought by the Minister. Interestingly, the letter of January 4, 2018 states a mistake was made and the suspension commenced on the 80th sitting, therefore the fourth sitting would include January 10, 2018.
This arbitrary interference in the interpretation of a Member’s, in this case a Minister’s, motion in keeping with SO 47 (3) (a) is totally unacceptable and smells of crass vindictiveness. No other Member has been treated in this manner in the history of the Guyana Parliament, despite many instances as recent as the 10th Parliament, where the unruly and disruptive behavior of the combined APNU and AFC opposition parties forced the suspension of sittings on no less than 10 occasions and the prevention of a government Minister, Minister Rohee, from speaking for 9 months until the Chief Justice ruled that this action was unconstitutional.
The legacy of the 11th Parliament is one of consistent undermining of the Standing Orders and interference by the executive in the role and functions of the National Assembly. This is just another example in what is fast becoming a voluminous dossier on the threats to parliamentary democracy in Guyana. However, we, in the Parliamentary Opposition, will not be daunted by these vindictive and unparliamentary measures.
We are forced to note ironically, that, we as Members of Parliament, have greater freedom to speak and to represent the people of Guyana, so far, outside of the hallowed halls of the National Assembly than inside those walls. This in itself is an indictment of the 11th Parliament.