After seven hours of perfunctory debate the National Assembly descended into bedlam last night when Government Parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud voted in favour of a no-confidence motion brought against the government he represents.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo just after 9 pm declared after the debate that “the case has been made.” Almost immediately his Chief Whip Gail Teixeira called for a division to which a chuckling Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland replied “honourable member I must first put the question.”
Eventually the question was put with each side striving to outdo the other. The Opposition loudly intoned “yes” while the government benches appeared to deliver a unanimous “no”.
Though Scotland said the negative responses appeared to outweigh the positive he allowed the division which saw each of the 65 voting members of the assembly casting their vote as part of a roll call.
The 32 Opposition MP’s duly declared their support for the motion while the first two government MP’s Audwin Rutherford and Haimraj Rajkumar, both of the Alliance for Change (AFC) strongly declared their dissent.
As Clerk of the Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, called for a Mr C Persaud to cast his vote shock reverberated through the chamber when Persaud voted ‘Yes’.
A shocked Volda Lawrence and David Patterson, who sit directly in front of the AFC backbencher spun in their seats while to his left an equally shocked Jermaine Figueira lashed out demanding “what the [expletive] you doing.”
Recognizing that he had incorrectly addressed the member, Isaacs instead called for the Honourable Charrandas Persaud who after calmly sipping from a glass of water softly intoned “Yes”.
In voting yes, Persaud had ignored Figueira who directed that he should “do the right [expletive] thing”. Rajkumar’s advice that “you can vote again say no,” was met with the response “Buddy I already vote.”
“Well you got to vote again. You can change it,” Rajkumar noted while APNU member Rajkumarie Bancroft began a lament of “No. Charrandas say no. Correct yourself. Correct it to no. No, no, no.”
“Why Charrandas behaving like this,” Bancroft asked into the silence which followed Persaud’s second declaration of yes vote.
Minister of Public Health and Chairperson of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Volda Lawrence with AFC leader Raphael Trotman whispering in her ear stood to ask Scotland “for a timeout of two minutes.”
Scotland was however unimpressed with the request.
“You can’t have a timeout on a vote. What sort of thing is that?” he questioned before reminding Lawrence that “a vote is taken to conclusion.”
At the same time Jagdeo maintained that the vote had already been recorded in Hansard and therefore stood.
He along with PPP/C members sought to direct the speaker’s attention to members of the gallery who had stood to confront Persaud. The shock of Persaud’s vote seemed to have paralyzed the assembly including the Clerk who had to be reminded by Scotland to “go through with the thing.”
A brief consultation between Scotland and Isaacs resulted in a decision to have all government MPs restate their votes and roll was once again called. This time Persaud declared to the House that “Yes, Yes, Yes” he was in favour of the motion of no confidence and despite the loudly voiced No from the other government MPs the motion was carried by a majority vote of 33 to 32.
The government had fallen after being elected in May 2015 to a five-year term and general elections now have to be held in three months.