Desecration of Parliament: Speaker should act “swiftly” on punishment for Opposition MPs – Teixeira
Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira is calling on the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir to act swiftly on sanctioning A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) for their behaviour in the House last week.
“They needed time to review and research what are the experiences of other Parliaments… But I sincerely believe that the Speaker has to move swiftly on this; the sooner the better,” Teixeira told Guyana Times on Thursday.
During the telephone interview, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister outlined the importance of the Speaker punishing the Opposition MPs, who had protested the passage of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Bill in the National Assembly last Wednesday.
“These are extremely serious things that have happened and cannot go unpunished. If they don’t [get punished] and if the punishment is not serious enough ,then Parliament will become just chaotic over and over again,” she asserted.
During the debate of the NRF Bill, which was eventually passed in the House and has since been signed into law, coalition MPs started protesting in objection of the hearing of the legislation. Their actions even escalated to a confrontation between them and Parliament staff after one of the Opposition members snatched the Parliament Mace from in front of the Speaker. This act by Opposition MP Annette Ferguson has since been widely condemned both locally and internationally. Ferguson’s action was also deemed a desecration of Parliament.
This was in addition to the Opposition MPs blowing whistles while walking around in the pit of the Assembly and surrounding Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh on the opposite side of the room as he was making his presentation.
Speaker Nadir has already indicated that the Opposition MPs would be punished for their attack on the symbolic Mace.
But when contacted on Thursday, Nadir would not confirm to this newspaper whether a decision was made on what form of punishment would be meted out to the coalition MPs.
However, this publication understands that the Speaker is looking at precedents from other Parliaments, where similar incidents have occurred, in coming up with a decision.
But Minister Teixeira, who is also Government’s Chief Whip in the National Assembly, indicated that the Speaker also has options from Guyana’s Parliament that he could consider including the 2003 incident involving then People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Opposition Members, who were sent to the Privileges Committee for protesting with placards in the Parliament Chamber, and even those involving People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) members.
In fact, she pointed to the 2017 incident when the then PPP/C Opposition was questioning Budget allocations under the APNU/AFC regime during which Bishop Juan Edghill was suspended for four sittings after he refused an order by then Speaker Dr Barton Scotland to leave the Chambers on December 11.
The Police were called in to have the MP physically removed, but the ranks failed in their attempts after a human barricade was formed by his colleagues to prevent them getting to him.
Parliament was later suspended, but the MP and his colleagues remained in the chambers until 22:00h. During this time, the electricity was purposely cut from the chambers so there were no lights, air conditioning or Wi-Fi available to anyone sitting in the chambers. This was in protest of the Speaker’s “biased” actions.
“So,[Edghill] was suspended and could not come into the precincts of the Parliament for any committee meetings or sittings, and could not receive any salary, benefits, etc, for that period,” she recalled.
According to the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, in addition to that option, Nadir can also look at the January 1991 incident whereby a PPP/C Opposition parliamentarian, Isahak Basir, was expelled from Parliament after he picked up the Mace and then threw a glass of water at the Speaker at the time, Sase Narain.
“So, the Speaker has a number of options open to him,” the Government Chief Whip argued.
Recalling the series of events that played out in the National Assembly on December 29, 2021, Teixeira stressed that the Opposition’s “terrorist” behaviour should not go unpunished or without serious consequences.
“The Speaker has a tremendous responsibility because it is very clear that they have no respect for him as Speaker; no respect for the authority of him as Speaker nor of the Parliament at all. If this is not addressed in some serious manner where the persons involved recognise how serious their transgressions were, [ the National Assembly would be chaotic ],” the Parliamentary Affairs Minister stated.
The Government Chief Whip went on to contend that the coalition Opposition was clearly intent on destabilising Government’s legislative agenda in the National Assembly. (G8)