With Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland’s recent denial of a Motion from the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to have the state of the rice sector debated, the Opposition party is crying foul.
In a recent missive, the party claims that the very “principles of parliamentary democracy, conventions and norms” is under threat.
It is a hue and cry the party noted that comes just a week after the Speaker disallowed a request for an adjournment to discuss the closure of Wales Estate as a “definite matter of urgent public importance.”
On January 21, PPP Member of Parliament Irfaan Ali submitted a Motion, to wit a notice to debate the state of the rice industry of Guyana in the National Assembly. It had also called on the government to urgently take measures to rescue the industry, the farmers and their families, communities and the economy.
However, the party reported that on January 29 the Speaker, through the Clerk of the National Assembly, informed Ali that the motion infringes on the provisions of Standing Order (SO) 26 (i) “Since the Government is not officially concerned with the Rice Industry in Guyana.”
The party noted that Standing Order (SO) 26 (i) has never been used to block Motions on notice in other cases like the 2005 flood, torture, crime wave and requests for Commission of Inquiry (COI) by then Opposition Leader David Granger.
“The utter banality of the Speaker’s decision to prevent the debate on this Motion of national importance is mind boggling,” the party said. “This ruling by the Speaker is merely the latest in a long list of dubious decisions and rulings that violate and undermine the principles of parliamentary democracy, conventions and norms.”
The party also decried the fact that there seems some confusion about the responsibilities of the Government and its Ministers. It cited the Official Gazette 87/2015 dated June 6, 2015 notice “Ministries and Assignments of Responsibilities among Ministers”.
“(This) lists Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder’s responsibilities, which include the rice industry and the Guyana Rice Development Board” (GRDB).”
“Furthermore,” it said. “The rice industry is regulated by a plethora of laws passed by this National Assembly; it is under the remit of a Minister responsible for the Sector to the National Assembly and by extension the nation.”
The PPP noted the importance of the industry to the welfare of the nation. It stated that every Minister of Finance has referred to its status, its contribution to the national economy and Government’s expectations of the industry in their annual budget speeches since independence.
The party also referred to the role played by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who had travelled to Mexico in an effort to arrange a rice deal.
“Therefore,” the party continued. “The Speaker’s decision is absolutely incorrect as the government is officially concerned with the rice industry.”
The party even referred to Article 171 of the Guyana Constitution, which states that “any Member of the National Assembly may introduce any Bill or Motion for debate in, or present any petition to the Assembly and the same shall be debated and disposed of according to the rules of procedure of the Assembly.”
In light of this, the party stated that the rules of the Assembly cannot be used to “deny, stultify or frustrate a member of the National Assembly to introduce a motion for debate.”
“The right of MP’s as elected representatives to bring matters of importance to the House is the very essence of Parliamentary democracy,” PPP stated. “And has been guarded and encouraged in the last 24 years of the Guyana National Assembly.”
It ended by demanding that the Speaker reverse his decision and allows the debate on the motion to proceed at the earliest convenient time.
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