Oct 01, 2022 News
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – While the High Court is set to make a decision regarding its jurisdiction to hear the case concerning the eight suspended opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde has approached the Full Court seeking a conservatory order that would allow the disciplined MPs to return to their functions at the National Assembly.
Forde told the Kaieteur News that since High Court judge, Justice Damone Younge had refused to issue the conservatory order in light of a planned November 1, 2022 decision that will determine whether the court should be hearing the case; he has sought the intervention of the Full Court to have the order in place. Forde is seeking the conservatory order to allow the suspended MPs to maintain their status quo in Parliament until the substantive matter of their suspension reaches a conclusion.
Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones, Sherod Duncan, Natasha Singh-Lewis, Annette Ferguson, Vinceroy Jordan, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, Ganesh Mahipaul, and Maureen Philadelphia were all suspended on July 21 during the 48th sitting of the National Assembly. The House officially approved a report of the Committee of Privileges, which recommended the suspension of eight Opposition members given their action during the controversial passing of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) bill, including the removal of the ceremonial mace, a representation of the House’s constitutional power.
The opposition lawyer is seeking an urgent hearing of the Notice of Appeal filed against the decision of Justice Younge. The application is asking the court that pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal, “a Conservatory Order, Injunction Order or other Order suspending the effect, operation and or validity of the Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee of Privileges on the Privilege Motion – 24th January, 2022 and adopted by the said Committee on the 9th day of June, 2022,” be issued.
Pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal, “a Conservatory Order, Injunction Order or any other Order suspending any decision, resolution or other determination of whatever nature whatsoever by the National Assembly to suspend the Applicants’ Membership of the National Assembly”, is being requested as well as an order that the Applicants be allowed to perform their duties as Members of the National Assembly until they have been afforded the right to be heard before the Parliamentary Sessional Select Committee of Privileges on the Privilege Motion – 24th January, 2022.
The MPs are seeking further the order to maintain the status quo while the court determines the validity of the Report of the Parliamentary Sessional Select Committee of Privileges on the Privilege Motion – January 24, 2022 and adopted by the said Committee on the June 9, 2022. The appeal to the court seeks an order suspending any decision, resolution or other determination of whatever nature whatsoever by the National Assembly to suspend the Applicants’ Membership of the National Assembly. The document insists that the opposition MPs be able to function as per normal until they have been afforded the right to be heard before the Parliamentary Sessional Select Committee of Privileges on the Privilege Motion – January 24, 2022.
The opposition parliamentarians have claimed that they were not given the right to a hearing following claims of misconduct during the passing of the NRF bill in December of last year. The MPs had charged that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic government was hurriedly moving ahead with the passage of the amended NRF bill despite their request to view and submit their input on the reworked legislation that deals directly with the handling of Guyana’s oil and gas revenues. They claimed that the government, among other things, weakened the oversight provisions within the law that was passed by the previous administration, and they were unwilling to have it go through the House without a fight, especially since the government has a one-seat majority that would see them outvoting the opposition members.
After protesting the passage of the bill by banging their desks and chanting loudly against the passage did not work, some opposition members sought to remove the ceremonial mace which must be in place for the passage of any legislation and causing much uproar.
The report of the Parliamentary committee showed that the Opposition MPs were invited to show cause why they should not be punished for their actions, but they instead denied having committed any illegal act and asked that the Committee point them to the specific standing orders which they would have violated. This, the MPs said, was not done, but the government side of the House proceeded to vote for the adoption of the report and its recommended discipline.
Given the significant number of opposition MPs that would be out of Parliament for several sittings, they are saying that the suspension does not sit well for transparency and scrutiny. Attorney for the applicants, Selwyn Pieters had said during an earlier hearing of the matter, that the suspension of the MPs inhibited the democratic process by removing duly-elected representatives of the people.
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