Latest update March 24th, 2023 12:59 AM
Jan 11, 2016 News
By: Kiana Wilburg
There were high hopes for a better display of political finesse from Members of Parliament (MPs). But even in the Eleventh Parliament, complaints of parliamentary democracy being under threat continue to increase.
In fact, the members of the Government side now find themselves facing the very accusations of unparliamentarily behavior which it once leveled against the PPP regime.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo expressed that the Government is in a habit of suspending the Standing Orders of the House to rush through critical bills, it has failed to properly consult with the Opposition on a number of matters and has undermined the role of the Opposition in ensuring that Government is held accountable to the people.
Jagdeo said, “I think we have been on record several times as saying that this threat is not only in Parliament but even what happened around the elections time. This does not bode well for our fledgling democracy. And therefore, we need Parliament to return to its not perfect but previous state where time was given for public scrutiny for important Bills and where the Parliamentary procedures are not truncated for expediency. This expedient condition is often created by Government.”
“So a Minister has to travel and they have to rush the Bills through all the three stages, which is something that is unheard of. We have had about eight such situations where they have suspended the Standing Orders to move Bills through the three stages in the last six to seven months.”
Jagdeo said that from 2006 to 2015, the PPP did this less than eight times as opposed to the ruling administration, which has exceeded this in a short space of time.
He continued, “They have also changed the Standing Orders to put Ministers on Committees and we never had this before. When we debated the changes to the Constitution, we said that the Standing Committees would have an oversight responsibility for Ministers where those Ministers would have to go and account for their policies. That was obtained up to 2015 but now it has changed. You have Ministers on the Standing Committees. Imagine a Minister is also on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is again something we shouldn’t have.”
He said that the combined mood in Parliament, given the infrequent sittings, rush to pass Bills without scrutiny, constant suspension of the Standing Orders and so forth, brings democracy under threat.
In support of his position, Opposition Member Anil Nandlall said, “The APNU+AFC in its manifesto promised the Guyanese people, an impartial, deliberative and independent Parliament. They have abysmally failed to deliver on that promise. I would like to cite a few cases to show this. Bills that are complex and voluminous and for which consultations should be held, using the mechanism of the Special Parliamentary Select Committee process, are not followed.”
Nandlall said that when objections are raised by the Opposition and by Civil Society, only then does one see a charade of consultations being held outside of the parliamentary process to falsely convey the impression that the Government is indeed engaging in the consultation exercise.
“However, when one examines what changes, if any, are made to the Bills as a result of these so called consultations, you get the clear impression that it is all a farce because nothing was changed. The views of those invited to the consultations do not find themselves in the Bills,” expressed Nandlall.
The former Attorney General said too, that the Standing Orders provide that every fourth sitting of the House shall be dedicated to dealing with the business of the Opposition. He emphasized that this is yet to occur even though there have been more than four sittings since the start of the Eleventh Parliament. He said that the Opposition is being denied its democratic right.
Nandlall said that for these reasons, among others, the democracy of the Parliament is under threat. The former Attorney General is claiming that the Government is, by its very actions, making the House into a rubber stamp.
But the Government is of course denying that the Parliamentary democracy being eroded is their fault. Prime Minister and Leader of the House, Moses Nagamootoo is pointing the finger right back at the Opposition.
In an interview last Thursday, he said that the Opposition is deliberately trying to frustrate the work of the Government and is showing by its very actions that it is not interested in democracy but clearly out to make the Government seem, “incompetent.”
Nagamootoo said, “It seems that all of our expectations for better relations have been dashed to dust because we have witnessed the worst behaviour since the tenth Parliament by the PPP. But it’s a behaviourial pattern with the PPP because they can’t accept that they are in the Opposition. They put on a set of antics because they want to give some sort of false impression that they are fighting and they will not give up.”
He added, “But it is all infantile politics. You see the cussing down of the government in Parliament and you see the biggest howls from Jagdeo and his following when I speak, and I would have to compose myself and not get tied up into the trap of unparliamentarily behaviour because that is what they want.”
The Prime Minister also commented that the disrespect shown by the PPP knows no bounds.
“They even extend their disrespectful behaviour to the Office of the Speaker. Every time Gail Teixeira has to address the Speaker she has to remind him that he is new, and fresh and learning and a new kid on the block. That is condescending and demeaning. It’s this very arrogance that cost them big time and it shows that they have learnt nothing from their mistakes. But I suppose we have to engage the Opposition perhaps in a different way, on a different platform and that’s the reason why I have been calling for more political dialogue with them but the Opposition is not necessarily looking for this. They are just out to embarrass us and make us look bad.”
When the coalition Government assumed office, President David Granger had said that while politics may be a dirty game, in the ring—the National Assembly—he wants a clean fight.
In the Tenth Parliament, the then Speaker of the House, Raphael Trotman complained bitterly about the unsavoury remarks like “thief” and “prostitute” uttered by the country’s leaders.
The President had told Kaieteur News during a special sit-down- interview at the Ministry of the Presidency that he has had it with this disrespect that has characterized the exchanges between Parliamentarians. He had said that “decorum, a sense of pride, dignity and integrity must be returned.”
To ensure that there is a change during his term in office; Granger plans to enforce his Code of Service for Members of the National Assembly. Should it not be adhered to, he will reserve the right to impose sanctions available to him.
Granger had said that the need for ethical behaviour among the Members of Parliament (MPs) is absolutely necessary, as respect for the National Assembly should be displayed at all times.
The President said that he is not going to put the Code into a form of an agreement to be signed on to by MPs. He believes that the current state it is in is enough for the time being.
The President had said that in its current state, it is in essence, moral suasion but, “at the level of Ministers, if they do not confirm to the norms of Ministerial service and they commit crimes, they will be exposed to criminal prosecution.”
“If it is a misdemeanor …then there are sanctions available to the Head of State.”
He had also stated, “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.”
To date, no sanctions have been imposed and the Code of Conduct is yet to be implemented.
Lies, Lies, Lies!!!
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