…secures majority votes on Committee of Selection
Mere minutes after the Head of State Donald Ramotar charged Members of Parliament to avoid gridlock and find consensus, the House seemed destined for a brawl as the nominations for the Parliamentary Committee of Selection were held.
The Speaker, Raphael Trotman had his work cut out on the first functional day of the business of the House when the members on the different sides of the aisle could not agree on the configuration for the Umbrella Committee.
The Parliamentary Committee is the body tasked with electing the members of the various other standing committees of the National Assembly, each tasked with its own arena of work.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds drew reference to the fact that the Standing Orders of Parliament call for a committee of no more than 10 persons and no less than six and as such he proposed the maximum. In that configuration the ruling Peoples Progressive Party Civic would be allotted five persons/votes while A Partnership for National Unity would have four persons/votes and the Alliance for Change one.
But this did not find favour with APNU’s Chief Whip, Amna Ally, who said that she would prefer nine persons on the committee.
In that configuration the PPP/C and APNU would have four persons/votes each, while the AFC holds the one swing vote.
Hinds in his proposal told the House that there is the tradition of observing the Standing Orders of the House, which calls for the Committee of Selection to be represented proportionally and according to the calculations of the Clerk of the House, the 10-member committee would be the most viable.
Amna Ally, however, was having none of what the Prime Minister suggested, saying that, “This Parliament is one of a difference and it must be reflected,” while adding that the reality is that the Government of the day is a minority Government.
After underscoring the importance of the Committee of Selection, Ally said that the 50/50 dispensation that the Government is proposing is a recipe “for gridlock and impasse.”
She said that in the spirit of good governance, “we want unity, we believe in consensus and as far as practicable we will be pleased to enjoy the luxury of good governance.”
Ally said that APNU is not optimistic that with the PPP/C, good governance will prevail.
The APNU Member subsequently had to have her arguments confined to the issue at hand after which Gail Teixeira rebutted, saying that the Minority Government is not the issue at hand but rather the party representation in the House.
“Combined opposition or not is not of issue,” said Gail as she expounded that the strength of the party is the issue at hand.
She charged that the PPP/C holds 32 seats in the National Assembly and simple mathematics would deduce that in a 10-seat committee, it is only logical for the her party to secure five persons/votes.
Teixeira said that for the PPP/C to only hold four seats in a nine committee configuration would not be reflective of the proportional tabulations. She said that it is plain wrong for a party that holds 40 per cent (APNU) and 49 per cent (PPP/C) to hold the same number of seats in the committee.
She appealed to the opposition to use the formula of 5-4-1 but to no avail. AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan in adding his voice to what was quickly turning into a conundrum said that while he is not a “math whiz” there needs to be a Committee reflective of the dispensation in Parliament.
He argued that even with the AFC holding a swing vote they will vote based on the arguments put forward and, “in the spirit of compromise we will do what is right.”
There was a subsequent call for a division of the votes where each MP individually voices where his vote lies and the combined opposition prevailed striking another blow on elections in the House.
A defeated Prime Minister Hinds subsequently nominated for the Committee, himself, Gail Teixeira Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and Indra Chandarpal.
Ally subsequently put forward the names of herself, Joseph Harmon, Volda Lawrence, Dr. George Norton and Khemraj Ramjattan.
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