Jan 03, 2009 News
…as Parliamentary Opposition degraded to bench warmers — Trotman
By Gary Eleazar
Parliaments around the world serve a vital purpose to each country; but, according to Leader of the Alliance For Change, Raphael Trotman, the National Assembly is failing and does not deliver on the representation to the people.
“I am disappointed in the way Parliament is being run…Almost all motions by the opposition are but put down.” He said that the several pieces of motions and legislations that were “shot down” were, in the view of any right-thinking Guyanese, proper.
He drew reference to the motion on torture, which was glossed over; there was the motion calling for a review of the Guyana Power and Light as well as one calling for a law reform commission, all of which were debunked by the party with the majority in the House.
According to Trotman, not only was the People’s Progressive Party Civic using its majority in the House to debunk opposition motions and bills, but it also uses that majority to force pieces of legislation through, such as the controversial Wiretapping Bill, which was met with staunch opposition but was eventually passed.
He noted that the current state of affairs in the National Assembly was symptomatic of a Government that “is in love with itself and has outlived its usefulness….One group is taking the country into peril and is totally oblivious to what is happening around…It does not augur well for inter-party relations and strengthening the democracy of Guyana, and is going to put us in a gridlock and conflict.”
He said that the Parliamentary Opposition in Guyana have been relegated to the role of benchwarmers, given that despite all of the politicking at the end of the day, the PPPC will have its way.
“That is the attitude of the ruling party…It calls Parliament when it feels that it wants to, and we are expected to attend to give some semblance of a functioning democracy.”
According to Trotman, the opposition would make presentations and would only achieve some publicity. “But nothing we say makes a difference…even amendments to correct typographical errors on Bills are refused by the Government.”
He emphasised the point that the situation has degraded to such a point that the average man in the street as well as the edified citizens have formed the opinion that Parliament is now a complete waste of time.
“I will have to concede that the majority of Guyanese do not see the Parliament as working in their interest, and this is something individually and collectively we will have to address.”
Trotman drew reference to the fact that, at the beginning of the Ninth Parliament, in 2006, during a meeting with the President and party leaders, the role and image of the Parliament was raised as something that was needed to be addressed collectively.
That meeting, according to Trotman, was supposed to have been the first of many such, but, “sad to say, that has not happened…this has never been another meeting.”
He added also that there was a high level of optimism earlier in the year when Sir Michael Davies, of the House of Lords in England, came and spent several months and rendered a report with several recommendations.
There was also a follow-up with a group of MPs from Australia, as well as the workshop held by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which “led to some opening up, but as of late I have seen the Government operating with a mindset that it is under siege.”
He said that after being in the Parliamentary system, he is for the fist time seeing that the opposition members are frustrated to the point that there could be physical violence in the debates this year.
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