Sep 07, 2015 News
By: Kiana Wilburg
While acknowledging that it is not always roses and kisses when Members of Parliament engage each other in the National Assembly, President David Granger made it clear that there is no place for vulgarity in the honourable House.
He made this comment during government’s recorded programme, “The Public Interest” on Thursday last.
Given the complaints about the behaviour of parliamentarians during the 2015 budget debates and deliberations not only by Parliamentarians but even from members from various quarters, Granger was asked whether his government has plans to take his social cohesive efforts to the level of the National Assembly.
“Yes. We feel that the present government is in the forefront of a new culture of political governance and in any parliament around the world there will always be some good natured banter but we must be careful not to allow that good natured banter to degenerate into insulting language. I have briefed the Chief Whip (Amna Ally) and I will discuss this with the Prime Minister, (Moses Nagamootoo) who is the leader of the house, to ensure that the banter doesn’t degenerate into vulgarity.”
President Granger reminded of the effects such behaviour had in the Tenth Parliament where former Education Minister, Priya Manickchand hurled some hurtful remarks at Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma which led to him resigning at the time.
Granger said that he hopes such does not repeat itself.
“I think we must be prepared for some type of exchange but it shouldn’t degenerate into vulgarity, there is no place for this kind of antipathy in this new political culture…We must have a robust debate but in a respectful manner.”
Several Parliamentarians throughout the 2015 budget debates felt the Honourable National Assembly was transformed into a Fish market given the behaviour of some members.
Speaking to the issue, Prime Minister and Leader of the House, Moses Nagamootoo had said that he believes that members on both sides could have done a better job in showing respect for the Parliament.
“I sincerely believe that we could have conducted ourselves in the House with decorum and respect for each other, in spite of the fact that we have a political divide and the fact that we belong to two different political blocks. Additionally, there are members of the House who just recently held positions in high offices such as Advisor to the President and ministers. But while one might forgive the Opposition backbenchers who are new for certain unparliamentary conduct, I cannot say the same for those who know what they are saying and intend to say what they are saying and the intention is to disrespect, demean and degrade members of the government,” said the First Vice President.
Nagamootoo believes that because he tabled the No-Confidence motion which led to the PPP administration being dethroned in the last elections, he and other members have been targets of abusive remarks from those in the Opposition benches.
“I am seen by the PPP as the one who took office from them and who triggered a process where they are in the Opposition and so they blame me…It’s a letdown and it hurts their ego and when egos are wounded it is not expected that they would have consideration for others ,” added Nagamootoo.
But the Prime Minister had said that while he expected the heckling and statements that bordered on blatant disrespect, one comment from an Opposition member shocked him the most.
He said that he did not expect such “low” behaviour from the Opposition’s Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira who he has worked with for many years.
“She looked at me in the face and said “you are the son of a b***h” in the parliament …this is not heckling. It is a disease of the mind that would allow you to be so condemnatory in the House.”
The politician had said that the posture of the Opposition is to “show that they are big and bad.”
The Prime Minister believes that while heckling is characteristic of most Parliaments, in his opinion, the Opposition went too far.
Kaieteur News spoke with Teixeira on the allegation which other members from the government’s side claim to have heard and she categorically denied it. The Opposition Chief Whip had said that she would never use such terms as she believes that it is even disrespectful to women.
Nonetheless, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall is of the view that heckling is an acceptable aspect of parliamentary life. He did concede that both sides of the House were guilty of making disrespectful utterances in the House and going overboard. But what he found most disturbing was the “consistent shouting” from the government’s backbenchers, particularly from Junior Minister of Social Protection, Simona Broomes.
He had said that the behavior of Broomes and those similar to hers “transformed the honourable House into a Fish market.”
Nandlall said he had even appealed to the government members to calm Ms. Broomes.
“I do my own heckling but I am complaining about Broomes and that particular group. Their behaviour bordered on disrespect for the House and the Speaker. Members from the Government side who called us thieves several times were also out of order and it was nothing but unparliamentary behaviour.”
Nandlall had said that it is most unfortunate that the Speaker of the House, Dr. Barton Scotland did not reprimand any of the Government Parliamentarians for their crude language in the House.
But for Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, he believes that there will always be heckling as it is part and parcel of a robust parliament system.
Ramjattan said that while heckling should have limitations, he believes that it should be left to the Speaker of the National Assembly to determine what really constitutes “crossing the line.”
As for government’s constant referral to the Opposition members as thieves during the budget 2015 debates, Ramjattan saw nothing wrong with this.
“This was not out of order. It was not unparliamentary for us to call them thieves. This is absolutely correct given what we know,” an impassioned Ramjattan exclaimed.
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