House Speaker brushes off Ramkarran’s “views” on speakership

– says he does not comment on things people say

Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland on Monday refused to respond to comments made by former House Speaker Ralph Ramkarran on his decision to disallow questions raised by the parliamentary

Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland
Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland

Opposition on pardoned prisoners.

Dr Scotland is currently facing criticism from both the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and, more recently, Ramkarran on the decision he took last week, to disallow questions raised by PPP Executive Member Anil Nandall.

Last week, the Speaker, through the Clerk of the National Assembly, informed Nandlall that his question regarding details on prisoners President David Granger has or intends to release, could not be allowed as those questions were “an abuse of the right of questioning”.

The Speaker came under fire from the parliamentary Opposition, particularly its leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, and Nandlall. Jagdeo said the Speaker was operating in favour of the Government.

Dr Scotland on Monday, however, made it plain to Guyana Times that while he was Speaker and has the right to speak, he would not respond to the comments and views of anyone.

“You know, you should not ask me that here. I would not comment on anyone’s view on anything. I did not read it, I did not read it and even if I did, I would not comment. I do not comment on things anyone says. I don’t comment on political party or anything anyone says,” he told Guyana Times.

Former Speaker Ramkarran in his online blog Conversation Tree over the weekend said that while the Speaker was not required to, and did not give any reasons for his ruling, it is customary that they give explanation for their rulings, in order to demonstrate that their decisions were based on rational considerations. This effort was intended to limit allegations of bias.

He explained that the Standing Orders did not define what an abuse of the right to question is, but among the 15 rules stated, he singled out Standing Order 20(2) which states that, ” If the Speaker is of the opinion that any Question of which a Member has given notice to the Clerk or which a Member has sought permission to ask without notice, is an abuse of the right of questioning or infringes any of the provisions of this or any other Standing Order, he or she may direct that it be printed or asked with such alterations as he or she may direct; or that the Member concerned be informed that the Question is inadmissible.

“The Speaker is, therefore, clearly seeing something that we are not. And the fact that he did not direct any alterations means that he felt that the questions were inadmissible in their entirety,” Ramkarran opined.

The Senior Counsel, who served as House Speaker for more than 10 years, said that these issues would never have arisen had President Granger released the names and other particulars of the persons whom he had pardoned in response to questions rightly posed to him.

Opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo, addressing a news conference last Wednesday, said his Party, through the National Assembly, has been trying to get the list of names for those persons who were released by President Granger last year. This has not been forthcoming.

Some 71 persons, male and female, are said to have been released by the President, since he took office.

Jagdeo said while the Head of State has the power to make such decisions, it is still the right of the public to be in the know.