Commonwealth Parlia mentary Association (CPA) Secretary-General (SG) Akbar Khan last Friday stressed the need for co-operation between the governing APNU+AFC and opposition PPP/C in the National Assembly.
Speaking at a press conference, Khan, a Guyanese by birth, noted that a lot of good work is done in Parliaments where initiatives receive support across party lines. “I would wish to see [them] working together on issues of national concern both on the floor of the House and at the committee stage. There are good proposals which can be worked on by both sides for the betterment of citizens of the nation… they should always remember that the public are looking in on their representatives to act in the best interest of their nation. Opposition for the sake of opposition is counterproductive. Lots of really good work is done in Parliaments where ideas come from both the opposition and the government. Remember that a parliamentarian has a higher calling—to work in the best interest of the citizens,” Khan explained.
Khan’s visit was a follow-up to a 2016 CPA post-election seminar and induction for new parliamentarians. During his visit, he was updated on how Parliament has been functioning and discussed the Latimer House Principles with several stakeholders, including President David Granger, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, and Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Barton Scotland as well as parliamentarians from both the government and opposition.
Khan told reporters that he was pleased to see several areas of progress in government’s legislative agenda. “It is a very ambitious agenda,” he noted, before congratulating government on its work in the area of social cohesion which he reminded is aligned to Sustainable Developmental Goals of the United Nations.
“As a Guyanese, it is humbling and pleasing to see the government leading on social cohesion and although it is only in its third year, it is essential that government models the behaviour and celebrates the diversity of this nation. I believe the future of every nation lies in its celebration and respect of diversity. I am extremely pleased to see real, genuine and meaningful attempts to move forward on social cohesion,” he stressed.
The SG also commended President Granger on his expressed ambition to link Guyana’s hinterland to its capital.
He further noted that currently Guyana is well placed to lead on the global “green agenda” if it could establish itself as a place of real expertise in this area and if it could successfully navigate the natural tensions between its budding oil and gas industry and its green economy.
Asked by Stabroek News to comment on recent situations in Guyana’s Parliament, such as the entry into the Chamber of the Guyana Police Force in an attempt to expel a member, Khan said the specific case involving the police warranted an investigation.
“I am aware of the issue back in December…. When police are called in that raises serious issues. It is a highly unusual situation. I am not fully aware of the facts but at the very least, it warrants an investigation from the Speaker,” he opined.
Further, Khan repeatedly stressed that “Parliament is the place where the issues of national concern ought to be discussed, ought to be agreed, ought to implemented by ministries, scrutinised by fully functioning committees and government held to account by functioning opposition, healthy opposition to ensure that the best decision making takes place [and] so that the wealth of the country is spent properly and accounted for.”
In order for this to occur, he noted, the opposition has to be given space to question.