…other measures planned to improve conduct of House
The 12th Parliament has been one of the most dramatic ones in recent memories, with sittings being disrupted by Members of Parliament (MPs) who disregard the Standing Orders. According to Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir, one measure on the Parliamentary Office’s agenda will be organising more training sessions for MPs.
During a recent online interview, the Speaker explained that while training was initially done for MPs after the 12th Parliament opened in 2020, additional training had to be scuttled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The first thing that happens when a new Parliament is elected, the Clerk will organise training sessions on the Standing Orders, on the dos and don’ts. On a number of issues. That was done,” he said.
“We also had, because of COVID, to postpone other training seminars for Members of Parliament, dealing with a number of issues. How to conduct the meetings, public accounts committee, procedures, how you ask questions. How you do honourable insults. There is a honourable insult that is acceptable in the house.”
He explained, however, that they have been able to arrange additional training sessions which will occur in May of this year and that MPs can expect increased training to be arranged by the Parliamentary Office.
“We have been able now, on the 10th and 11th of May, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, of which we’re a member, will be conducting an in-person training programme for all Members of Parliament.”
“And they pool and bring very experienced people from around the world, that we rely on. Ghana, Nigeria, India, Canada, the United Kingdom and our own friends in Caricom. Leaving out Haiti and Suriname, all the rest of Parliaments follow basically the same rules.”
Another measure Nadir said he has given serious thought to, is to have engagements with both sides of the aisle, in a non-parliamentary setting. He noted that this is something former Speaker of the House Raphael Trotman had initiated. According to Nadir, while this can be implemented, members can still expect the Standing Orders to be firmly enforced inside the National Assembly.
“So, we’re going to up the training programmes. One of the things I could do, which hasn’t been done yet, is to start having engagements with both sides in a non-parliamentary, non-combative environment. But the bottom line is, in Parliament we should respect the rules. Militancy can’t trump decency and respect for the Standing Orders,” he said.
The most recent instance where the Standing Orders were disregarded and an MP had to be disciplined was Alliance For Change (AFC) MP Sherod Duncan, who was suspended on February 9 for disrupting the parliamentary session.
Duncan is one of eight APNU/AFC MPs already before the Privileges Committee, for the infamous Mace grab of December 29, 2021, when Opposition members protested the hearing of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Bill, which they wanted to be sent to a parliamentary Special Select Committee for review.
The coalition MPs stood banging on their desks when the Bill was called up for debate and subsequently gathered in the pit of the dome of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), where National Assembly sittings are being held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bill was eventually passed late into the evening but not before the Opposition’s protest escalated into a physical confrontation with Parliament staff after an MP snatched the Parliament Mace from in front of Speaker Nadir.
The other APNU/AFC MPs sent to the Privileges Committee include Chief Whip Jones, Annette Ferguson, Ganesh Mahipaul, Natasha Singh-Lewis, Vinceroy Jordan, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, and Maureen Philadelphia. (G3)