National Assembly dismisses opposition motion to change Standing Orders

The National Assembly by a 34 to 31 vote on Wednesday, dismissed the opposition’s motion for amendments to Standing Orders Nos. 20(2), (3), and 27(2).

The motion sought to remove standing order no. 20(2), replacing it with an amended section that allows for questions and motions submitted to the clerk be passed on to the speaker within four days of receipt for consideration.

It also provided for an insertion of Standing Order 20(3), which directs that should the speaker be of the opinion that a question provided without notice, infringes on any provisions, he or she may, within four days, direct that the question be printed with alterations, or that the member be informed that the question is inadmissible.

Further amendments to Standing Order 27(2), pose a deadline of four days for direction from the speaker.

In rejecting the motion, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, called out the opposition for opportunistic attempts to bend legislation to its benefit.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance and Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira

The minister reminded of an incident in 2012, when opposition members piloted a motion to amend the Standing Orders to change the composition of the Parliamentary Management Committee, to reflect an opposition majority.

The Standing Order had posited that sectoral committees are to consist of four government members and three opposition members.

“This was debated and passed. Then they got into government in 2015, and lo and behold, Minister Ramjattan at the time, supported a motion to reverse the ruling of 2012, to put the government as majority and the opposition as minority. If that is not opportunism, tell me what is,” Minister Teixeira lamented.  

She also pointed to the historic passage of the No Confidence Motion in 2018 and the chaotic events that followed, highlighting the opposition’s track record of bypassing procedures, to the detriment of Guyanese.

“All these highfalutin attempts to be able to show that they are democratic cannot remove the stain of certain things. It cannot remove the stain of 2018 to 2020 where this country’s constitution was violated. Nineteen months…the Guyanese people waited 19 months for a declaration of results following a no confidence motion, when the constitution said three months.”

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament, Sanjeev Datadin said the imposition of the four-day window, speaks to a totalitarian and dictatorial nature, identifying it as a clear attempt to undermine the authority of the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Member of Parliament, Sanjeev Datadin

He outlined the primary roles of the speaker, which include presiding over proceedings of the House and pronouncing on motions.

“When we seek to set time limits that are so aggressive, one cannot help but believe that what is being sought is to dictate the decision maker… the imposition of four days is so aggressive that it smacks of dictatorship and control,” the MP said.

Also opposing the motion was Member of Parliament, Alister Charlie, who asserted that the proposed amendments contradict the principles of parliamentary procedures.