…for letter criticizing House Speaker
Opposition Member of Parliament, Harry Gill will face the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges following the publication of a letter that condemned House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland over decisions made against the Opposition.
The start of yesterday’s sitting was delayed for nearly ninety minutes as the Speaker deliberated privately on Gill’s letter which was published in Monday’s edition of the Stabroek News under the heading, ‘There are inconsistencies in the Speaker’s rulings on sub judice and other matters’.
Dr. Scotland told the House that the conduct of the Speaker cannot be criticised, except by way of a substantive Motion.
“He [Gill] has proceeded instead on a course of action which is totally impermissible under the Standing Orders. His conduct is an affront to the Office of Speaker, the person of the Speaker, and to the dignity of this House,” Dr. Scotland stated.
He further explained that this is the second occasion in two years that such disregard for the rules of the House has been displayed by members.
“It may be that the silence of this House on the previous occasions has emboldened the Honourable Member Mr. Gill,” the Speaker pointed out.
He relayed international norms where reflections on the character or actions by the Speaker may be punished as breaches of privileges.
Dr. Scotland quoted from the House of Commons where the Speaker’s actions cannot be criticised incidentally in debate or for any form of proceeding, except a substantive Motion.
The Speaker’s authority in the chair, Dr. Scotland stated, is fortified by many special powers.
In moving a Motion for Gill to face disciplinary action, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo said that the Government does not condone any attack on the office of Speaker.
Under heavy heckling from the Opposition, the Prime Minister stated that Gill was ‘sheltering’ under the freedom of expression to launch a politically premeditated attack on the Speaker.
“It is clear that from the reception that I received by making these observations to this Honourable House, will also speak to the fact that politically, the alleged offender is being protected,” Nagamootoo stated.
He added, “It behooves upon us to protect the impartiality of the Speaker if we are to defend our Parliamentary democracy. I would like to invoke Order 91 of our Standing Orders and ask that the matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges.”
Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira pointed out that the Prime Minister’s Motion under Standing Order 91 was misplaced.
“The Privilege Motion was not properly put in the first place. We know this because we brought Privileges Motions, and if there is a hurry to bring Mr. Gill, what has happened to the Motion of Privilege with Dr. [George] Norton?” Teixeira questioned.
The Chief Whip also stated that Article 126 of the Constitution speaks to freedom of expression outside of the House, and there was no disrespect to the Speaker in the House.
“This is damaging the right to freedom in this country,” Teixeira stated before the Speaker ordered that the remarks be expunged from the Parliamentary records.
The Speaker ruled that the Prime Minister’s Motion was properly made.
“Honourable Member, Mr. Gill will answer to the Committee of Privileges for his conduct,” the Speaker ruled.
The Opposition subsequently questioned the legality of the Speaker, as head of the Privileges Committee, to adjudicate in matter, since he is the subject of Gill’s letter.d start to proceedings.
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