May 11, 2017 News
Sittings of the National Assembly have on recent occasions ended at 22:00hrs (10:00pm) after beginning at 14:00hrs. However, this time limit has been flagged as a deterrent to democracy. It does not allow for the proper
ventilation of issues of national interest, says the political opposition.
The People’s Progressive Party Civic Member of Parliament and former Attorney-General Anil Nandlall, made this known during a press conference on Monday during a break in the 64th Sitting of the National Assembly.
He said that the constant closing of sessions at 22:00hrs can be described as continued stifling of debates in the National Assembly. Nandlall said that this practice seems to have become a permanent feature of the Assembly.
He said that it merges into a complete authoritarian takeover in Guyana where at every level there are attempts to deny people their basic freedoms.
Nandlall’s statements came about based on the motion tabled by PPP/C MP Pauline Campbell-Sukhai calling for the revocation of the Commission of Inquiry surrounding the claims of Amerindian land titling.
He said that Monday was ‘Opposition Day’ and that the particular motion was placed on the order paper in compliance with the relevant standing orders. Nandlall said that his party was told that Monday’s sitting will not extend beyond 22:00hrs.
“Now you have seen the support that this motion has received from the Amerindian community in our country. Every major Amerindian representative organisation in Guyana, has expressed deep concern, has expressed their anxiety and it is those concerns which we have captured in that motion.”
Nandlall posed the question, “Why is it that a parliament, whose function it is to allow in a democracy, robust and elaborate debate, is being denied to the opposition in the Guyanese parliament repeatedly?”
“We have another exhibition of an attempt to stifle debates in our parliament.” Nandlall said his party had asked through its Chief Whip, Gail Teixiera, that if the motion could not be debated fully on Monday, within the time allotted then there should be an extension.
The former AG reminded members of the press that while his party was in office, there were debates in the Parliament which lasted until the wee hours of the morning so as to get the government’s business and the people’s business discussed and fully ventilated.
“This is a matter of paramount importance to a section of our population and we have asked that that it be extended beyond 10:00pm; there is nothing wrong with that; that is not unprecedented. In fact, we have a tradition in this parliament to take debates beyond 10:00pm on important national issues.”
Nandlall said that his party would have offered to the government the option to extend the debated beyond the time slot. However, he said that this offer was rejected. He said that it was then proposed that the sitting ends at 10:00pm as scheduled but to continue discussions on the following day (Tuesday) or any other day in the week that is convenient to the government.
Similarly, this offer was rejected. He said that this would not have allowed the proper ventilation of the issues because the issues have some history. He said that for the speakers from his party to do a proper and effective distillation of the issues to put them before the House and Guyanese listening, time is necessary.
“So again, we lament that we are not getting to debate matters of national interest properly in the parliament of Guyana and again we are witnessing a guillotining of debates and we are witnessing parliamentary democracy being under siege.”
Following the press conference only two speakers were allowed to present arguments on the motion before the session ended at 10:00pm.
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