The opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) yesterday criticised a move to prevent parliamentarian Juan Edghill from attending the upcoming January 10th sitting of the National Assembly due to a mistake made by the Parliament Office in calculating when his suspension commenced.
According to a statement issued by the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Edghill received a letter, dated January 4th, 2018, informing him that he cannot attend the 83rd sitting.
Edghill had been suspended for four sittings after government members on December 12, 2017 used their majority to pass a motion to that effect.
The motion was brought by government Chief Whip Amna Ally, one day after Edghill defied a directive from Speaker Barton Scotland that he withdraw from the parliament chamber. As a result of this defiance, a skirmish developed between opposition members and police ranks, who tried to eject him.
Edghill had been deemed out of order by Scotland, who was presiding as Chairman of the Committee of Supply at the time. The ruckus resulted in the adjournment of the 79th sitting but PPP/C parliamentarians remained in the parliament chamber until late into the night in a show of solidarity with Edghill.
In her motion the next day, Ally, who is Minister of Social Protection, cited the “gross disorderly conduct” of Edghill and noted that she was moving the motion under Standing Order 47 (3) for him to be suspended from the service of the Assembly for its next four sittings.
According to the statement from the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, the Parliament Office under the hand of the Clerk of the National Assembly wrote Edghill on December 12, 2017 suspending him for four sittings from the 79th sitting, the very sitting at which Minister Ally brought the motion of suspension.
It also noted that on Tuesday, December 12th, 2017, prior to the commencement of the adjourned 79th sitting (and hence prior to Ally’s motion being moved and passed), Edghill was prevented from entering the Public Buildings and was arrested at the traffic lights approximately 100 feet from the gates of the compound.
Further, it also pointed out that Ally’s motion included a date of when the suspension would come to an end, December 15th, 2017.
Despite these factors, it said the letter of January 4th states that a mistake was made and the suspension commenced on the 80th sitting, therefore the fourth sitting would include the one planned for January 10th, 2018.
The Office of the Leader of the Opposition argued that the directive in the January 4th letter counts as “arbitrary interference in the interpretation of a Member’s, in this case a Minister’s, motion in keeping with SO 47 (3) (a)” and called it “totally unacceptable” and reeking of “crass vindictiveness.”
“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,” it added, before claiming that no other Member has been treated in this manner in the history of the Guyana Parliament.
The statement further charged that 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,” it added.