– “We were unable to fully realize our agenda for parliament in a way that we should as a result of the disagreements…we should put aside our narrow interest from time to time to serve the people,”
By Kiana Wilburg
Considering the inability of parliamentarians to reach compromise on several critical issues, it comes as no
surprise to many that Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman has deemed the lack of meaningful dialogue and compromise as “the greatest failure of the Tenth Parliament.”
This is against the backdrop that there have been several instances where members of Parliament have opted to be absent from certain committee meetings. There have been walk-outs from the National Assembly and the complete failure of a newly formed sub-committee which was established by the Speaker to discuss matters before it is debated in public.
In an exclusive interview with this publication, Trotman was asked to comment on the successes and failures of the National Assembly.
The House Speaker said that while he is proud that certain Bills have been passed and there have been some very vibrant committee sessions, the fact that the Assembly didn’t “collapse earlier than people expected” means that “certain things” were achieved. But there are still some unresolved issues and goals which need to be realized.
As it relates to failures, Trotman said that first on his list would be a lack of dialogue and compromise.
“I would really like to see the parties relating to each other in a better way, and a lack of that resulted in everything else; the disagreements and even anger. I would say that it has been the greatest failure that we faced in the tenth parliament and I don’t think that we were able to fully realize our agenda for Parliament in a way that we should, as a result of the disagreements,” the House Speaker added.
Trotman said that he was very disappointed that Bills that were passed by the House were not assented to by President Donald Ramotar. This is in addition to the fact that some critical pieces of legislation, such as the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill, are yet to be passed.
On the topic of lack of discussion, Trotman reminded of a sub-committee he created to discuss important issues relating to the 2014 budget, which turned out to be a failure. To this, he expressed that he tried his best to create a platform to stimulate dialogue over certain issues. He added, “I do speak to both parties and there was perhaps some measure of success behind closed doors but somehow, that has not always worked out.”
“The one where we tried to have a sub-committee to look at critical budget issues failed, but we had some measure of success. However, the way forward in this regard depends on President Donald Ramotar and the leaders of the two opposition parties; the Alliance for Change and the A Partnership for National Unity.”
The House Speaker said that those three need to meet outside of the parliamentary process to try to resolve their issues because “whatever way I can and I try to get involved, it is not always well received because I get accused of all kinds of things. But I always try to encourage meaningful discussions between the leaders.”
Earlier this year, Trotman spoke about making the Parliament more easily understood to the people and for parliamentarians to be more engaging with the citizens who elected them to serve.
With regard to the success achieved thus far in this regard, the Speaker explained that by and large, there has been an increased presence of members of the public at Parliament more than ever before. As he expressed happiness over the increasing presence of citizens, the outreach programme he said has been quite a success. With just Regions Three, Seven and One remaining to be covered, Trotman said that the most recent outreach was done in the Rupununi which turned out to be a very successful tour.
He noted that the people of the area are accustomed to seeing their Members of Parliament on television criticizing each other “So seeing a team of Parliamentarians which were from both government and opposition, was certainly strange and new but very well received. They were very pleased to see the politicians working together as a team to address their concerns and answer their questions.”
And so I think people got a stronger feeling that the Parliament is there to serve them, and I wish to come back to how important dialogue and compromise is, and the effect it can have on improving confidence and restoring faith in the Parliament. We should put aside our narrow interest from time to time to serve the people,” The House Speaker said.
Asked what he hopes to accomplish when Parliament reconvenes, Trotman said that he hopes that the legislations pending can be passed and a more interactive website design for the Parliament can be finalized.
The completion of the live streaming project, renovation of the public gallery and improvement of media arrangements are also on his agenda. But just how much he can achieve before the year ends, will be entirely dependent on what occurs when the “historic no-confidence motion” comes to the table for debate in October.
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