Aside from the serious work that goes on at Parliament, we can all agree that there were irreverent moments when Members of Parliament, made the public burst into laughter.
The recent Budget Debate was broadcast live and allowed the public an unadulterated view into a world where Governmental officials and the members of the Parliamentary Opposition faced off in an all-out verbal war of words.
Day One of the Budget Debate saw some members on both sides giving each other “the stare”, coupled with eyes rolling.
The sarcastic banter was seldom boring.
Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Dawn Hastings-Williams might have stolen the show when she rose to deliver her presentation.
She was heckled from the moment she began speaking. Undeterred, she made references to arguments being made by members of the house about the recent spat about colours.
She pointed out that it is a fundamental and democratic right to wear any colour and come to the house.
“You can come to this house red and dread and we on this side will come to this house green and clean”. This elicited a thumbs-up from Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and props from Minister Within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson, who gave a shoulder rub and a “yes, girl”.
The Minister went on to say that “frivolous comments were made by the Opposition, such as vampire budget.”
Further, “I would accept vampire budget, that sucks the blood of corruption from the veins of the previous administration. If you want to say it’s a bulldozer budget, then we are going to bulldoze the soil of corruption”.
These remarks were met with resounding tapping on the government’s side and even garnered some smiles from certain members of the Opposition.
If this job doesn’t pan out, Minister Hastings-Williams has a bright future in writing and publishing poetry… or may even stand-up comedy.
The Minister then revealed plans for the water sector where the government’s commitment is to provide potable water to all Guyanese.
The heckling continued, with the most vocal being Ganga Persaud. Hastings-Williams was then stopped by the House Speaker who then asked Persaud to rise. The Speaker then inquired if Persaud would like to have the floor, to which he responded, “No, sir, I’m heckling sir, sorry sir”. Dr. Scotland then said to him: “It is not provided for in the standing orders sir, I hope you will obey the standing order”. Hastings- Williams then rose to continue her presentation and stated: “Thank you Mr. Speaker for giving my friend over there attention, who I think is craving for attention from me”.
This comment caused Persaud to look at Hastings-Williams with a perplexed look and remarked, “Ha, who me? Nah.”
After Amna Ally, Minister of Social Cohesion rose to give her presentation, members of the Opposition referred to her as “Minister of Social Corrosion,” inciting all the MPs of the opposition into unbridled laughter.
Ally continued her presentation and so did the heckling. She then stopped in the midst of a sentence and said to Opposition MP, Nigel Dharamlall, “don’t worry with you Dharamlall, Pauline got the bangles for you”.
Who would expect that a Minister such as the Minister of Public Health George Norton, can also be deemed a classic actor/comedian? Dr. Norton spoke about the rehabilitation of the Ministry’s administrative offices. He paused for a brief interlude, scanned the House, pulled his document to his face and said “20M is earmarked for the buildings which includes remodeling and equipping the health office buildings for the Minister within the Ministry so that the Honourable Minister Cummings can show her motion without limitation”.
He then smiled and continued, “She will not be doing so to tra-la-la-la but to something more appropriate like “Don’t hold me back”.
This comment caused a chorus of laughter and resounding tapping, and Dr.Norton added:
“Her motion can even be 6:30”.
It seems like Dr. Norton is quite up to the times.
Opposition Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall was speaking about the “unnerving comments” made by the Minister of Finance Winston Jordan regarding the currency exchange rate when an outburst occurred.
The House Speaker then tapped his gavel and immediately after, Nandlall said, “Thank you for your protection sir” which left government officials chuckling.
Nandlall labelled the government’s expectation that the proposed National Budget would stimulate growth, as “courageous”, while criticizing what he identified as an overreliance on taxation: “the net is so wide, sir, it captures from man to mule”.
Despite being chided by Dr. Scotland for making reference to an ongoing court case, Nandlall recovered made allegations about persons who had received land titles being “ejected” from their homes. He was stopped midway by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, who activated a standing order which allowed him to interject in Nandlall’s presentation. Williams informed the house that the matter Nandlall is referring was also in the courts. Nandlall continued with an outburst, leaned forward, raised his index finger and began pointing it vigorously downward and exclaimed, “an injustice remains an injustice, whether it is litigated or not! Litigations is to bring justice not to perpetuate injustice!” This comment resulted in echoing cheers from his comrades as Opposition MP Irfan Ali looked up to Nandlall and said, “Yes, Yes”.
The praises were short-lived as Dr. Scotland tapped his gavel. “Honourable Member, the words would still remain the same, do not expend so much energy”.
To this Nandlall smiled and said, “Alright, Injustice has that effect on me Sir! Injustice”.
Opposition MP Adrian Anamayah, stated that the 2016 National Budget “has robbed the people of the good life.
“The role of the government and the Honourable Minister of Finance is now likened to that of an undertaker and this 2016 Budget, is the final nail in the coffin.”
This comment was praised by MP Dharamlall as he offered a high-five saying “beautiful” repeatedly.
Opposition MP, Pauline Sukhai, rose to give her presentation which was welcomed by a rhythmical tapping on the desks by her colleagues.
But Government MPs went on a “heckling spree” as some whispered, “Buss a smile fuh we Pauline girl” which was accompanied by “Give we the $2M smile,” and an occasional “Ow, she got a nice smile nuh?”
This, of course, was in reference to the fact that Sukhai had several million dollars worth of work done to her teeth, an expense which was funded by the state using taxpayers’ dollars. This was done shortly before the May 11, 2015 General Elections.
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