“The 10th Parliament has been plagued by too many challenges… Any decision I make must be able to stand the scrutiny of the court” – House Speaker
By: Kiana Wilburg
In light of arguments by his predecessors, Ralph Ramkarran and Sase Narain, on the powers of the Speaker to reconvene the sitting of the National Assembly, House Speaker Raphael Trotman is expected to conduct a meeting with the two. This advice will be used to inform his apparently cautious quest for a “correct decision” that will stand the scrutiny of any court.
While some politicians are vigourously pursuing viable options to halt the current delay of the sitting of the National Assembly, Former Speaker Ramkarran in his recent writings on his blog, (Conversation Tree) opined that every day that goes by without the sitting of the parliament amounts to a violation of the parliamentary rules.
He argued that the present Speaker is obliged to convene the sitting of the parliament on October 11, the day after the parliamentary recess ended. He said that this is supported by the Standing Orders.
Ramkarran also stated that since the National Assembly is normally adjourned for the recess without a date being named, the next sitting date has to be October 11. The former Speaker said too that he takes responsibility for erring on this part during his tenure and said that such a violation should not occur under any Speaker, past or present.
Trotman was contacted by this publication yesterday via telephone and he explained that at this point, he is being “bombarded” with views on the reconvening of parliament from all angles.
“On one hand you hear, the Speaker has the authority to reconvene, then you hear that the Speaker does not have that power, and then you hear that the Speaker has that power but with certain conditions. In Guyana, there is definitely not a shortage of experts on the Constitution. But it must not be overlooked that there is a process that was agreed to and we must allow that to be exhausted first. I am speaking about the Parliamentary Management Committee. That committee has members of all the political parties and it was agreed that the Whip of the Government and the Opposition, Gail Teixeira and Amna Ally, respectively, would meet and discuss or find some consensus on the date for the reconvening of the National Assembly. However, I will be meeting with the Whips this week and if they indicate that they are unable to reach a consensus, I believe that we can look at other measures then,” the Speaker explained.
Trotman said that while there is the argument that the Speaker has the power to reconvene the parliament, and that he should do so, he reiterated that he wants his decision to be able to withstand the scrutiny of the court.
“The 10th Parliament has been plagued by too many challenges. Even if I have that power, I have to ensure that what I am doing is correct. I spoke with former Speaker Narain on this matter but I will consult with Ramkarran now and Narain once more,” Trotman articulated.
While the comments on what his next step should be are coming “fast and furious”, Trotman stressed that he believes that it is not his place to prompt the date for the sitting of the Parliament, but rather preside over it.
In order to reconvene the sitting of the House, Trotman said that he had suggested that in the public’s interest, if 51 percent or more of the House makes a case for the House to be reconvened, it would be considered.
“The Alliance For Change wants to debate its No-Confidence Motion and the A Partnership for National Unity has other matters it wants to discuss, in addition to the Motion. I am not going to reconvene Parliament for just seven members,” Trotman added.
In a brief interview with this publication, Narain, who served as Speaker of the House when the Peoples National Congress held the majority, said yesterday that he provided Trotman with some advice on the matter. While he agreed in the main with Ramkarran’s position, he insisted that once representation is made to the Speaker by a majority of the House, “He (Trotman) has the power to exercise discretion whether to call parliament or not. This is undoubtedly supported by the Standing Orders.”
After being apprised of Trotman’s comments, the Opposition’s Chief Whip, Amna Ally was asked yesterday whether she was contacted by Teixeira and if they are unable at this point, to reach a consensus on a date for the sitting of the parliament. She responded, “Whatever the Speaker tells you, is that. I really don’t want to comment on that…Miss Teixeira and I are still in talks. I don’t know if we will reach a consensus but I told her that we want an early sitting and she has not contacted me since on the matter.” Teixeira could not be reached for her input.
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