Mar 05, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The Speaker of the National Assembly was yesterday forced to suspend the Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones along with Members of Parliament (MPs) Sherod Duncan, Amanza Walton-Desir, Jermaine Figueira, Sherwayne Holder, Natasha Singh-Lewis were all suspended from the rest of the sitting during the afternoon period after they continued to film the proceedings via mobile devices. This was done despite Standing Order 45 prohibiting the same.
The Opposition MPs were also at the time calling for the removal of Government MP and Public Affairs Minister Kwame McCoy after he allegedly assaulted another MP, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, the day prior.
Just as the Budget Estimates were about to commence, Christopher Jones stood up and requested that McCoy be removed from chamber business. The Speaker, Manzoor Nadir retorted that Jones should file an appropriate motion for his request. His response however, did not register well with the other Opposition MPs who immediately began banging on their desks in protest, shouting “Kwame must go.”
The Speaker had requested that Jones take his seat for at least three times prior before suspending Parliament.
The Opposition MPs protest came after reports surfaced on Wednesday of MP Tabitha Sarabo-Halley being hit in her face with a mobile phone allegedly by Minister McCoy. Claims outlined that the two had an exchange of words and McCoy confronted her on the corridors of the Arthur Chung Conference Center (ACCC) where the alleged assault was said to have occurred. Minister McCoy in a statement denied the assault allegations but he did admit to verbal altercation.
“I emphatically and completely deny that I assaulted Ms. Halley as she has alleged or at all. At no time did I touch Ms. Halley with my phone or any part of my body,” he said in a statement.
The Minister continued “At the time in question, outside the Parliament Chamber, I had just completed a verbal exchange with Mr. Keith Lowenfield, who attended the Committee of Supply. After Mr. Lowenfield’s departure, I began to speak with Minister Anand Persaud. I observed the presence of Ms. Halley, who was approximately four feet away from me. We exchanged words, but there was absolutely no physical contact whatsoever. Minister Persaud was present with me at all material time. Ms. Halley’s allegation is totally false, malicious and intended to cause me embarrassment and public ridicule.”
Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon at a press conference on Wednesday evening condemned McCoy’s actions and demanded an apology from the MP. However, he remained tight-lipped regarding the details of the allegedly assault. According to Harmon, there were several witnesses to the alleged assault, but he declined to indicate whether the witnesses were Government or Opposition MPs or even staffers of the Parliament Office.
Harmon told the press “I don’t have to tell you who are these witnesses. They are witnesses who the police took statements from. These are people who actually saw what happened. It doesn’t matter where they are from.”
Further to that, when the media insisted on obtaining more details of the incident, the Opposition’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Imran Khan cautioned against turning the press conference “into an investigation” as that is the role of the police.
Khan told the media that, “What I find very concerning is the fact that we seem to want to execute an investigation before we do any reportage on an issue. The facts are before you. A Member of Parliament has made an allegation that she was assaulted by another Member of Parliament. One does not need any further facts to report that in the newspaper.”
On Thursday as well, another press conference was held, this time featuring MPs Cathy Hughes, Natasha Khan and Amanza Walton-Desir who expressed that they feel unsafe after their fellow MP was assaulted. It was said that their unsafe feeling is what prompted the Chief Whip, Christopher Jones to ask for McCoy’s removal from the House.
Meanwhile, camera footage during the period of the alleged assault has proven unreliable. According to the Prime Minister, Mark Phillips, the footage that was reviewed in his presence and that of other Opposition MPs revealed no indication of physical assault. The police will now have to rely on eyewitness accounts of the alleged assault to complete their investigations.
Statements have emerged from coalition parties, Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the Alliance For Change (AFC), Volda Lawrence, People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), and separately from the PNCR itself condemning McCoy’s alleged actions.
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