Speaker suspends Parliament after alleged altercation between MPs
…Police investigating alleged assault – Harmon
Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, was forced to suspend Wednesday’s parliamentary session following an alleged altercation between Members of Parliament Kwame McCoy and Tabitha Sarabo-Halley.
Reports are that the two Parliamentarians had a confrontation during which it was alleged that McCoy, who is the Minister of Public Affairs within the Office of the President, physically assaulted the Opposition MP.
The APNU+AFC Opposition demanded that the House Speaker address the issue immediately. However, the Speaker indicated that he would deal with the matter when the consideration of the budget estimates they were dealing with at the time in the Committee of Supply was completed and returned to the National Assembly.
This, however, angered the Opposition, causing them to stage a walkout led by Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon.
Sometime after, 18 Opposition MPs returned to the Dome of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) which is being used to hold parliamentary sessions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and again raised the issue.
This time, Speaker Nadir cited Standing Order 12, which states that they will have to revert to the Assembly from the Committee of Supply, and then, “…the 18 members can stand and will be heard.”
Still dissatisfied, the Opposition MPs started to persistently hit on the desks in the Dome loudly. This resulted in the Speaker suspending the session and later adjourning the day’s proceedings until today.
Meanwhile, in response to the allegations against him, Minister McCoy “emphatically and completely” denied assaulting MP Sarabo-Halley.
“At no time did I touch Ms. Halley with my phone or any part of my body. At the time in question, outside the Parliament Chamber, I had just completed a verbal exchange with Mr Keith Lowenfield, who attended the Committee of Supply. After Mr Lowenfield’s departure, I began to speak with Minister Anand Persaud. I observed the presence of Ms. Halley, who was approximately four feet away from me. We exchanged words, but there was absolutely no physical contact whatsoever,” McCoy detailed in a statement on Wednesday night.
The Minister went on to say that the allegation is “totally false, malicious, and intended to cause me embarrassment and public ridicule. I am seeking the advice of my attorneys-at-law on the way forward. I urge the Guyana Police Force to fully investigate this matter and institute the necessary charges against Ms. Halley, and I am prepared to prosecute any charges vigorously.”
Meanwhile, in a subsequent interview, Minister Persaud recounted that his colleague Minister and Lowenfield were in a verbal exchange when Sarabo-Halley appeared shortly after and got between the two men.
“[She] was telling Kwame, ‘Move from here! Move from here!’ Kwame took out his phone and was trying to video what took place. They were about three feet apart from each other, and I never saw Kwame assaulting anyone. I was a loner there,” Persaud related.
Nonetheless, Prime Minister (Ret’d) Brigadier Mark Phillips has also called for a thorough investigation of the incident.
“We expect who’s conducting the investigation (to) be very objective. Utilise whatever camera footage is available to come to an objective conclusion. We have no reason to disbelieve Minister Kwame McCoy… We had a discussion with him and we have no reason to disbelieve him. As far as we’re concerned, he is sincere. However, this matter has to be investigated, and we have to get down to the truth,” PM Phillips has posited.
During a subsequent press conference later on Wednesday night, Opposition Leader Harmon disclosed that the Police were brought in and are moving at a rapid pace.
He noted that investigators have reviewed CCTV footage from the ACCC but this requires further investigation.
“Unfortunately, what that video footage showed was that there are some areas of the National Assembly that are not covered by the cameras… The video footage offers you evidence of what may have happened before and after,” Harmon noted during a virtual press conference.
Nevertheless, the Opposition Leader noted that the Police will now have to rely on eyewitnesses.
However, when pressed on who these persons are – whether they were Coalition members or Parliament staff – Harmon refused to say.
Moreover, after he confirmed that MP Sarabo-Halley sought medical attention, the Opposition Leader further declined to share what that medical stated.
Meanwhile, he contended that the party would make a determination after the probe wraps up, most likely today, on whether it would continue to participate in the ongoing Consideration of the 2021 Budget Estimates.
According to the Opposition Leader, an apology would not be “sufficient”. (G8)