…Police, MPs scuffle in an attempt to evict him
Tensions gripped the National Assembly yesterday as Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland, was forced to suspend the sitting when People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament Bishop Juan Edghill disobeyed an order to leave the chamber even after the unprecedented move to call in the police.
Shortly after 10 p.m. when the sitting should have ended, the PPP/C MPs were still encamped in the Chamber.
It was shortly before 12:30 p.m. when the police were called in to remove Edghill. The PPP/C MPs formed a human chain around Edghill who ignored the speaker’s order and remained seated in the Chamber.
After a huddle over the legal steps to be taken, the police ranks attempted to surge past the human blockade. This led to a scuffle between the lawmen and the MPs protecting Edghill.
Shouts of ‘rape’ and loud screams filled the sacred Assembly as the cops attempted to get to Edghill. The ranks eventually gave up, leaving the PPP/C MPs encamped in the chamber for several hours.
During the ordeal, Government MPs were observed in the corridors, some with their staff making final budgetary preparations.
STANDING ORDER IS CLEAR
The Standing Order which governs the functioning of the National assembly states that the Speaker in the Assembly and the Chairperson in Committee shall be responsible for the observance of the rules of order in the Assembly and Committee respectively. Their decision upon any point of order shall not be open to appeal and shall not be reviewed by the Assembly except upon a substantive motion made after notice.
The rules also state that when Speaker or Chairperson rises, any Member then speaking or wishing to speak shall immediately resume his or her seat and the Assembly, or the Committee, shall be silent.
According to the Standing Orders, the Speaker or the Chairperson shall order any Member whose conduct is grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the Assembly during the remainder of that day’s Sitting and may direct such steps to be taken as are required to enforce this order.
Further, it is stated that if any Member who has been directed to withdraw or who has been suspended under the Standing Order, refuses at any time to obey the direction of the Speaker to withdraw from the Assembly and its precincts, the Speaker shall call the attention of the Assembly to the fact that recourse to force is necessary in order to compel obedience to his or her direction, and the Member named by him or her as having so refused to obey his or her direction shall thereupon without further question put be suspended from the service of the Assembly during the remainder of the Session.
The Standing Orders also state that if resort to force is necessary, the Speaker may suspend the Sitting during the removal of the Member and the Member shall not be entitled to attend the Sitting from which he or she was directed to withdraw or in a case of suspension to attend any Sitting or enter the precincts of the Assembly until the termination of his or her suspension.
OUT OF ORDER
Yesterday marked the first of five days that the Assembly resolved itself into Committee of Supply to examine the estimates of revenue and expenditure in the 2018 Budget. While pouring over the Ministry of the Presidency, Edghill attempted to ask a question about the allocation.
However, the Speaker notified him that the two hours allotted for the review of the Ministry of the Presidency had expired.
“We are allowed for each agency a specific time. What that meant was when that time is reached as I did indicate to this House, I will put the question. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot make an agreement. We cannot accept a set of time and then we gaily ignore it. We cannot do that,” the Speaker stated as he was challenged by Edghill.
He added, “We as an Assembly will ensure that we keep ourselves within the time allotted for each. We cannot do otherwise. At the beginning of this morning’s sitting, I said that to members. It could not be that members expected it to be otherwise.”
The Speaker was interrupted by Edghill who stood up, but he was warned to take his seat.
“Sir, could I be heard for one moment?” Edghill asked.
The Speaker responded, “Please sit Mr. Edghill. I am not entertaining questions so anything else you are seeking to do…”
Pursuing his question, Mr. Edghill stood up and continued, “Sir, I am just seeking to indicate to you that there have been four additional programmes added under the Ministry of the Presidency that were not there last year.”
The Speaker stood firm.
“Honourable Member, Mr. Edghill, please take your seat…Are you going to sit or you’re not going to sit?”
Edghill clapped back stating, “So we are not going to allow scrutiny in the House, Sir?”
Once again the Speaker asked Mr. Edghill to take his seat, but the MP demanded a response to his statement on extending the time.
The speaker rose from his chair, wagged his finger and gestured for Mr. Edghill to take his seat.
“Honourable Member Mr. Edghill you are out of order,” the Speaker said as he took his seat.
Edghill replied, “I don’t mind being out of order sir, on a matter of principle, Sir.”
The speaker interjected. “Then I must order you to leave,” the Speaker told Edghill.
Edghill continued, “On a matter of principle, I stand up to be out of order, Sir because if we have four additional programmes that have been added to the Ministry of the Presidency and the same two hours that was given last year is going to be given this year with four additional programmes it means that Government don’t want scrutiny of this budget. That is what it means and I would stand up and be out of order, Sir.”
The Speaker restated that Edghill is out of order.
“I must order you to leave this Chamber and take no further part in the business of this matter,” the Speaker said.
Edghill eventually took his seat and stated, “I will not leave the Chamber. I am an elected member of this house to scrutinise the budget on behalf of the people of Guyana,” Edghill shouted.
The Speaker then instructed the Sergeant-at-Arms to remove Edghill from the chamber, and if help is required he knows what to do. Help was sought as several ranks eventually entered the Chamber to forcefully remove Edghill.
In the process, Member of Parliament, Priya Manickchand, said that the police pushed her into the edge of a table. She cried as her fellow MPs fanned her while she sat in a chair. Between sobs, she complained that the police action was illegal and uncalled for. She stated that the police had punched her, but there was no evidence that this had occurred.
She applauded the media for staying in the Chamber after an order was made for their removal.
APOLOGY CALLED FOR
Surrounding Edghill, the PPP/C MPs locked arms. They sang their own version of the African American spiritual songs ‘We shall overcome’ and ‘I shall not be moved;’move, they did not!
“This is not going to go down easily,” Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo told reporters.
Jagdeo showed up some time after the police had left the Chamber.
“This is unprecedented and I think it is designed to distract attention from the US$20 million that they tried to steal. This is all carefully worked out. I have seen outrageous breaches in this Chamber from the other side that he [Speaker] refused to act on. On this issue, suddenly the police are called in. There has to be an apology to all our Members of Parliament,” Jagdeo told reporters.
As he spoke, the lights, air conditioners and WiFi service in the Chamber were switched off.
Jagdeo met with the Speaker in an attempt to end the impasse and resume the sitting; however, after one hour there was no amicable solution reached.
The PPP/C MPs stayed in the Chamber, fearing that if they leave, the Speaker would resume the consideration of the budget estimates.
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