Snatching of Speaker’s Mace: 8 APNU/AFC MPs sent to Privileges Committee to be sanctioned
…Speaker allows Opposition ‘No-Confidence Motion’ against him
Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira on Monday moved a motion to have eight members of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) parliamentary Opposition sent to the Privileges Committee over their behaviour in the National Assembly on December 29.
The parliamentarians are APNU/AFC’s Chief Whip Christopher Jones, and other members, Annette Ferguson, Ganesh Mahipaul, Sherod Duncan, Natasha Singh-Lewis, Vinceroy Jordan, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, and Maureen Philadelphia.
On December 29, APNU/AFC members protested the hearing of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Bill, which they wanted to be sent to parliamentary Special Select Committee for review. 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 one of the parliamentarians snatched the Parliament Mace from in front of the Speaker, Manzoor Nadir.
In the process, the symbolic mace was damaged. Some Opposition MPs also went into the control room of the ACCC where they ripped out connections for internet and microphones, causing the live feed and virtual connections to be disrupted.
Moreover, Opposition parliamentarians have been accused of assaulting, both physically and verbally including the use of racial epithets, the Personal Assistant to the Speaker who was trying to protect the Mace.
The Mace is the most integral part of the National Assembly’s business and if it is not in the House, no business can be conducted. Speaking on this issue during the sitting, Teixeira denounced the actions of the APNU/AFC MPs which she noted has brought the National Assembly into disrepute.
“Whereas at the 34th sitting of the National Assembly, members of the APNU/AFC coalition conducted themselves in a grossly disorderly and disrespectful manner and in particular, repeatedly disregarded and ignored the authority of the National Assembly and the Speaker,” the Government Chief Whip said.
“And whereas the members attempted to prevent the second and third reading of the Natural Resources Fund bill… removing the Mace from its rightful position and attempting to remove it from the chamber, thereby creating great disorder and chaos, which resulted in injuries to a member of staff and damage to the Mace… be it resolved that this National Assembly registered its abhorrence…this National Assembly commits these eight named members to the Privileges Committee in accordance with Standing Order 32,” Teixeira expressed.
Teixeira also asked for the matter to be resolved within a month’s time. According to the Parliament of Guyana website, “any matter which appears to affect the powers and privileges of the Assembly is referred to [the Privileges] Committee whose duty is to consider any such matter and to report thereon to the Assembly.”
APNU/AFC has also brought motions seeking to refer a number of People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Members of Parliament to the Privileges Committee. It was explained during the sitting by Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir, however, that this motion did not follow the correct format and as such, will be delayed.
Motion against Speaker
Meanwhile, Nadir has allowed a motion of no-confidence against him to be debated at a future sitting of the House. According to the Speaker, the motion will go through the regular procedure. The motion was brought by the APNU/AFC parliamentary Opposition.
According to the motion, a copy of which was seen by this publication, the 34th sitting of the National Assembly forms the basis for the Opposition’s contentions against the Speaker. It states that “Whereas both before and after the Minister of Finance started to speak, Members of the Opposition objected vehemently to the second reading and debate, and stood to gain the Speaker’s attention; And Whereas the Speaker failed and/or refused to acknowledge the Members standing, and instead, encouraged the Minister to proceed and thereby purported to allow the debate on the second reading of the Bill to proceed.”
The motion also claims that both the Opposition and Government MPs left their seats and entered the well of the National Assembly. It claims that despite the chaos in the National Assembly, the Speaker allowed the debate to continue.
“Members of the Opposition were compelled to remove the mace from the dais; believing that this would halt all proceedings; And Whereas it was incumbent on, and imperative for, the Speaker to halt the proceedings and to restore order in the National Assembly,” the motion states, going on to claim that the Speaker has shown partiality to the Government side of the House.
It was only in January that Speaker Nadir had released a statement condemning the People’s National Congress (PNC) attempts to bring his speakership of the National Assembly into disrepute. The Speaker had said at the time that he has always acted in accordance with the Standing orders. (G3)