While calling the government’s legislative agenda “thin,” Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira is convinced that the absence of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who recently underwent a cardiac bypass surgery, will see a holdup of parliamentary sittings.
“They can’t risk Parliament with anybody missing,” Teixeira told Stabroek News on Monday, while noting that government appears to only use the National Assembly for the “hasty passage” of bills.
Government holds a one-seat majority in the National Assembly. The absence of any voting member would put its legislative agenda in jeopardy if there is straight voting along government-opposition lines as there tends to be.
The next sitting of the National Assembly is set for March 15th but Nagamootoo is not expected to be back anytime soon. The last sitting was on January 19th , a near two-month gap.
Director of Public Information Imran Khan has told Stabroek News that while there is no set date for the Prime Minister’s return, it is “not immediate” as he would have to recover from the cardiac surgery he has recently undergone.
The Department of Public Information has also reported that APNU+AFC Member of Parliament Rajcoomarie Gloria Bancroft, a regional parliamentarian for Region Eight, has been hospitalised recently.
Since winning a one seat legislative majority at the 2015 general and regional elections, the ruling APNU+AFC coalition has struggled to ensure that each of its 33 voting members are present for each sitting and at least two ministers have left hospital beds to attend Parliamentary sittings.
Minister Dawn Hastings-Williams was taken to Parliament in an ambulance and had to be lifted into her seat while wheelchair bound. Additionally, then Minister of Education Dr Rupert Roopnaraine attended one sitting of the National Assembly with an intravenous line still attached.
Most recently, Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence attended a sitting with her arm in a cast. She was also accompanied by a medic.
Teixeira told Stabroek News that the “overseas agenda” of the ministers has also proved a challenge for government. Currently Minister of Education Nicolette Henry is on travel duty outside the jurisdiction, while the ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and State have all recently returned from overseas trips.
“Parliament is not really their thing,” Teixeira contended, while adding that the opposition is of the view that “government has such a thin legislative agenda that sittings are only held when it wants to have a bill pushed through. “They are uninterested in Parliament otherwise. Since 2015, their dilemma has been ensuring that all voting members are present. This is challenging because of their active overseas agenda with travelling,” she added.