The government has filed an action before the Courts questioning the wisdom, legality and constitutionality of the decision of the Speaker to send a motion directed against the Minister of Home Affairs to the Committee of Privileges, and instituting a gag order on the said Minister until the committee makes a recommendation.
The Courts will have to rule on whether it has jurisdiction to hear this matter and what follows from such a determination. The government, however, need not wait until the Court rules to resolve this matter.
It should seek an alternative resolution to the present impasse without conceding any credibility to the decision to send a motion censuring the Minister to the Committee of Privileges, a decision which has already been described as perverse.
Guyana is a divided country, but even those who hate the PPP administration have seen for themselves the ruthlessness of the opposition parties in so far as the Minister of Home Affairs is concerned. The opposition condemned the minister even before he was tried; they tried to silence him even before the report of the Commission of Inquiry has been released and despite a ruling that motions are not binding on the executive.
If in the face of opinions that the minister could not be prevented from speaking because of a no-confidence motion nor could he be forced to resign, the opposition still persisted with their vindictive and brutal actions before the National Assembly, then it should by now be clear that this is an opposition which can never be trusted with political power. To place executive authority power in the hands of this opposition would be gambling with disaster.
The opposition represents a danger to parliamentary democracy. If the opposition could have instituted actions that have led to a gag order on the Minister of Home Affairs without establishing any contempt of parliament by the Minister, then by extension they can gag the entire government. Is this an opposition that can be trusted?
Further, how can a member of parliament be dragged before the Privileges Committee and in the process lose his right to speak before the National Assembly, a right that flows from his very election to the House, without being told what is the offence he has committed and specifically which privilege was breached? Not even in the days of our unrepresentative National Assembly was there any attempt to gag a member of parliament without a charge of contempt being heard.
The opposition cannot be blamed for the matter being referred to the Privileges Committee. It did not seek such an outcome, but it is complicit in what happened because it was its own motion that triggered such a response, and it has done nothing to diffuse the impasse or to contribute to a resolution.
All the talk about wanting to avoid another Budget impasse should therefore be taken with a grain of salt, because the actions of the opposition are contrary to any such spirit of avoiding an impasse. The opposition parties are creating unnecessary problems in the parliament and their actions have irreparably strained relations between the opposition and the government. This is the worst opposition that this country has ever produced.
Notwithstanding the government has to find a way to diffuse the impasse that has been the sole creation of the opposition. The government should, without prejudice to the court actions they have filed, seek an alternative resolution to the problem facing the Minister of Home Affairs.
The objective should be to reverse the decision to send the motion against the Minister to the Committee of Privileges. There is nothing stopping the Speaker from reversing himself once he can be convinced that his ruling was flawed.
As such, the government should seek opinions from the House of Commons or persons who have knowledge of the operations of parliamentary rules, as to whether the action of sending the matter of Minister Rohee to the Committee of Privileges should be entertained. Those opinions should be part of an attempt to demonstrate that there were serious flaws in that decision and to expose its shortcomings and inherent flaws so that it can be reversed and thus avoid having to go ahead with the Court action.
If after doing this there is no reversal of the ruling, the government can always, with the weight of the opinions of persons learned in British parliamentary rules, bring its own motion of no-confidence against the Speaker, because it has already been reported publicly that once any of the parties lose confidence in the Speaker, he would be willing to step aside.
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I have been doing columns since 1988. I have been a major columnist with the Catholic Standard, Stabroek News, Kaieteur... more