Home Letters Unprecedented for Govt to walk out on Opposition
The coalition Government (APNU/AFC) qualifies for inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is the first Government to boycott itself in Parliament– first time that a Government in any part of the world has walked out on (boycott) itself (its own parliamentary sitting). The Government Members of Parliament (MPs) walked out when Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, the main PPP respondent in the ongoing budget debate, delivered his contribution. The Government asked for the sitting and it asked for the debate. Therefore, it behooved the Government to participate in its own proceedings. For the Government to walk out in its own debate suggests they don’t understand Parliamentary affairs or they don’t care what the opposition says. It is unparliamentary.
While the Government may feel that the walk out, or boycott, would embarrass the Opposition Leader, it has embarrassed the Government as the international community is laughing at them. The walkout made news internationally, putting the Government in bad light. In Trinidad where I attended the weekend Hindu Conference, several former and current MPs expressed their shock that the Government boycotted the opposition in parliament. This is a new action. It is unheard of in the parliamentary system. The opposite happened in many countries and is an acceptable act from an opposition– walking out as a form of protest against the Government.
A boycott or walkout is an appropriate form of protest; it was used effectively against colonial rule in India by Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters; by Dr King in the US to protest racism against Blavks, against apartheid rule in South Africa, and by us in Guyana during the period of the dictatorship, etc, students boycotted or walked out of classes at UG and at schools during the 1980s to protest against rigged elections, national service, repressive rule, etc. I helped organise a boycott of classes at the Corentyne High School in 1977 when three of my teachers were victimised for guiding us to form a student society.
International community pays attention to that form of protest. This form of protest is generally utilised by opposition figures, not the Government in a legislature. So it is unprecedented that the APNU/AFC coalition Government would employ that tactic. In effect, the Government protested and behaved as though it is the opposition and not in charge of the country. It reminds me of a protest that the Helmut Kohl Government in Germany in early 1990s undertook to protest against skin head attacks on immigrants. The same seems to be the case in Guyana when the Government boycotted the Opposition Leader’s response to the budget.
It is a matter of principle that the Government listen to the other side in a budget debate. The Opposition Leader and MPs were present in Parliament when the Finance Minister presented the proposed budget. Parliamentary decorum dictates that the Finance Minister listen to the response of all members, particularly the Opposition Leader as he is the main spokesperson for the official opposition. He is not speaking as Jagdeo, but as the representative of the opposition. Parliamentary convention dictates that the Opposition Leader be given equal time as the Finance Minister in responding to the budget and the Government accords respect to the office. To do otherwise, and to not listen to the Opposition Leader, is an insult to the MPs, Parliament, as well as to the nation. The Government owes nation an apology.
Dr Vishnu Bisram