… aims to push through Access to Information and Telecommunications Bills
The National Assembly will be foregoing its normal routine which sees the body going into recess from
August to October each year.
A motion brought by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds to see Standing Order
Nine suspended was passed in Parliament yesterday afternoon. Standing Order Nine provides that “unless there are special reasons for so doing, no sitting of the National Assembly shall be held between the 10th August and 10th October in any year”.
However Standing Order III provides for the suspension of one or more Standing Orders after notice, or with the leave of the Speaker of the House, on a motion by a member at any sitting.
The opposition however chose not to support the motion with the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) stating that its representatives will not be attending any of the sessions while the Alliance For
Change (AFC) has stated that it reserves the right to attend whichever sessions it chooses.
Hinds said of the motion that the Government was not “taking the step lightly”. He called this Ninth Parliament “a very busy one” going on to say that it was “busier than any other”. The PM pointed out that there have been at least 140 Bills, tabled, debated and passed in the National Assembly during the life of this Parliament. He went on to note, however, that there are a number of Bills which have been “long in preparation and discussion” and it would be a “great loss to the people of Guyana” if they were not brought to conclusion in this Parliament.
Hinds said that the move speaks particularly to the Telecommunications Bill and the consequential amendments to the Public Utilities Commission Act. He also highlighted the fact that there are a number of items currently caught up in Special Select and Standing
Committees which the Government wants to bring before the Assembly before it dissolves. Hinds spoke of the Access to Information Bill, currently caught up in Special Select Committee. A Bill, over which, the PM says both sides of the House have been earnestly meeting over the last few weeks.
Hinds went on to say that the motion was brought to the House, taking advantage of the provisos made by Standing Order III, even as the Government is cognizant of the fact that sittings have continued into recess before. “It is not a new thing,” said Hinds “that where the Government judges there is sufficient need … the Government will bring into Parliament a motion such as this.”
He was adamant that the call for an extension of the Parliament into recess “is in no way an extension of this period of Government”.
According to the Motion, “the 9th Parliament held its first sitting on September 28, 2006 and shall by the effluxion of time in accordance with the Article 70 (3) of the Constitution, stand dissolved on the 27th day of September 2011.”
The tabling of the motion then sparked a seemingly endless back and forth between Government and opposition starting with leader of the Opposition and the PNCR, Robert Corbin.
Corbin lost no time in stating that his party would not be supporting the motion. He said, “The PNCR totally rejects this highhanded and dictatorial behavior.” He said that his party will not be supporting this move for good reasons. The first of those he gave was that if necessity and circumstances demand the suspension of a Standing Order, then there should be consultation on the reason for such a suspension. He also noted that such a suspension is usually only called in times of national emergency.
The fact that the matter was not sent to the Parliamentary Management Commission for consultation was also a sore point for the PNCR. Corbin said that his party would be observing the recess from August 10, 2011 and that they would not be coming to the sessions during the time allotted for recess. However he did give the caveat that the PNC will attend if there are issues of national importance or emergency.
Sheila Holder of the AFC also stated that her party would not be supporting the motion either; however, they did reserve the right to decide when they will attend sessions. She noted that it was quite clear that the Government was not interested in the support of the opposition because they only needed a simple majority to pass the motion. She stressed that the failure of the Government to take the motion to the Parliamentary Management Committee was a breach of the constitution.
Chief Whip of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, Gail Teixeira, in her comments on the motion, stated that there was neither an abuse nor a violation of the constitution in this motion. A fact that Prime Minister Hinds confirmed when he explained that the motion does not require emergency or urgency for its passage.
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