Kaieteur News – Nine years ago, I noted in these columns that our National Assembly was in crisis. And that this crisis was self-inflicted.
I recalled then that the disruptive and disrespectful heckling, which was taking place, was bringing the parliament into disrepute. And if continued, it is going to make Guyana the laughing stock of the Caribbean.
It has continued. Nine years after!
Nine years ago, the issue was constant heckling and cross chatting between the Government side of the House and the Opposition side. I noted then that the parliament should be a place of civilized discourse. It should be the House where manners and civility resound. It should be a place where parliamentary norms, conventions and practices should be scrupulously observed. It should provide an incentive for the peoples’ representatives to be on their best behaviour.
The first day of the Budget debate saw a new low. Parliamentarians enjoy immunity in the House and they used this to say things, which they would not have dared say outside of the protected speech allowed in the National Assembly.
The homophobic statements made from both sides of the House would have forced criminal charges had it been made outside of the National Assembly. In some jurisdictions, it would not have mattered that the comments were made within the House. In most democracies, there would have been calls for those making homophobic references to resign forthwith.
But Guyana is that sort of country where the public is partisan when it comes to taking positions relating to such statements. Once it is made by a politician, the supporters of that politician’s party would not protest. In this instance homophobic statements were made from both sides of the House and therefore the supporters of both of the main political groups are reluctant to call for the comments to be withdrawn and the persons making them to resign.
We are yet to hear from those organizations, which are quick to take positions on moral issues. Yet, these same organizations have remained morally inconsistent.
Regardless of where someone stands on the political divide, there are certain comments, which are not only distasteful but are beyond the pale. Whatever differences, you might have with someone you should keep that person’s family out of it. And certainly, no insinuations should be made about childbearing. It is a new low in our politics, that comment should be withdrawn, and an apology offered.
Also highly distasteful is the insensitive remark about the death of the parliamentarian’s father. That is worse than using a funeral for political campaigning. It is inhumane to throw shade about the grieving circumstances. You do not kick even your enemy in the stomach when they are in the ground. It is cowardly to do so. It was revolting to say the least to read about some of the comments, which were being made.
The 2021 Budget was tailor-made for criticism. It is a visionless Budget, one that carries no internal logic. It is one of the most poorly crafted and intellectually devoid Budgets ever in this country’s history.
You would have thought that the Opposition would have relished the opportunity to go after the obvious deficiencies in the Budget. But all of the presentations made so far have lacked substance. And the government itself is doing a terrible job at defending the Budget, notwithstanding that there is not much to defend.
The people who went to vote on March 2nd and then had to wait five months for a result will be disappointed at the quality of representation in the House. What is taking place is a cuss-out between the two political archrivals.
As a result, the debate is being reduced to theatrics. These included attacks on the perceived people’s sexual preferences of persons, insinuations against their manhood and vulgar attacks.
If this is going to be the tenor of the debates in the National Assembly, sittings should be shifted to the fish market. The grossness of recent debates would fit perfectly in such an environment.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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