Norton’s rejected motion violated parliamentary rules – Minister Teixeira

A motion to facilitate a clean voters’ list presented by Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton, was rejected by Speaker of the House, Hon Manzoor Nadir on Monday because it violated parliamentary rules.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, responding to opposition MP Ganesh Mahipaul, explained this in a statement to the media on Tuesday.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira

While there have been repeated calls for the list ahead of next year’s Local Government Elections (LGE), the associated concerns have been repeatedly addressed by members of government, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), and ruled on by the High Court in a 2019 judgment handed down by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George.

However, the motion was not allowed by the house speaker because it was not urgent.

The speaker said Norton violated parliamentary rules by tabling the motion to cleanse the voters’ list by amendments to the Constitution, since amendments to electoral laws were slated to be debated the same day.

Minister Teixeira had later explained, in a press conference, that members of parliament are not allowed to bring forward motions anticipating matters coming before the House. This has been ruled on by several past speakers and is part of the Standing Orders of Guyana.

Following the rejection of the motion, Norton and other A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) parliamentarians later exited the chamber, missing the key debate on the Constitutional Reform Commission Bill.

“I very carefully outlined the issue regarding the reasons why the motion that was submitted by the opposition was rejected by the speaker. And I want to reiterate what I said then and that is that the motion they’re referring to was never seen by anybody on the government side,” Minister Teixeira reiterated.

As a result, Minister Teixeira stated that the opposition leader was pressuring the speaker to collude with him with regard to violating the constitution and disregarding the ruling of the chief justice and the courts of Guyana regarding residency.

“It is very clear that all of this must have gone over Mr. Mahipaul’s head, because the courts have ruled on the issue of residency, therefore… you can remove people who have died through the provision of legitimate death certificates. They did rule that there is no residency clause in our constitution or legislation, and therefore, anybody, once registered, and they may emigrate, or they may go live in another region. They’re allowed to vote in the elections. There was no provision in the constitution to remove anybody based on the residency clause as there was none,” she explained.

The minister dubbed Norton’s motion to cleanse the voters’ list as a move to prevent migrants from voting in upcoming elections.

“So, this whole issue of the so-called motion to deal with the clean voter’s list and voter impersonation was one that the speaker could not comply with, particularly as on that day, Monday, November 7, the first reading of the two bills on electoral reform were tabled, that is the… amendments to the Registration Act, and also the amendments to the Representation of the People Act (ROPA).”

She said Norton and Mahipaul cannot be ignorant of the fact that the clean voters’ list is a matter of constitutional reform, and therefore will have to be addressed during the constitutional reform process.

The minister also addressed the ongoing investigation into the PNC’s claims of difference in figures and recommended that the party submit their Statements of Poll (SoPs) to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI), which is the body that will be examining all issues raised leading up to and during the elections.

“And so, if there’s a claim of voter impersonation, I believe the APNU+AFC should provide to the police the list of the persons and their addresses, who they claimed voted in the in the 2020 elections, and they should also provide that and their Statements of Poll to the Commission of Inquiry,” she said.

Later on Monday, amendments to ROPA were to be debated to allow for the general registrar to mandatorily provide the names of deceased persons to GECOM, so that their names could be removed from the database of registrants.