Parliament descends to new low as opposition disregards speaker’s ruling

DPI, Guyana, Monday, December 11, 2017

Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman said that government is concerned about the Opposition’s growing disrespect in the National Assembly.

The Minister was at the time speaking to the Department of Public Information (DPI), following the furor after Opposition Member of Parliament, Bishop Juan Edghill’s refused to accede to the Speaker’s request to take his seat.

Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman.

The Sergeant-at-Arms attempted, and failed, to have MP Edghill removed, after being instructed to do so by the Speaker. Pandemonium then erupted in the National Assembly as Guyana Police Force ranks were called to have him removed. The presence of the ranks led to the Opposition “circling the wagons” and preventing Edghill’s removal.

“We are quite distressed at what we see as an evolving pattern of disrespect it was meted out against the President on November second. That, was a new first. No matter how bad relations got between the two main parties in this country, there has never been a disrespect of the kind seen in Parliament on the second of November and we have never seen today’s events repeated before. Previously there were incidents where people hurled objects at former speakers in the 1970’s, but nothing as we have seen [recently]. What is more amazing is the rapid descent that in November you would see that and in December you would see something else. We have to maintain order”, Minister Trotman stated.

Describing today’s incident as “a fast slippage into disorder”, Minister Trotman said, “I believe that after today, the Speaker certainly has a duty to call in the Chief Whips and maybe even speak to the Leader of the Opposition, and even the President about whether or not we want to continue as a Parliamentary Democracy, and be seen as one or be labelled internationally as a bunch of hooligans.”

In addition, Minister Trotman said the Opposition’s actions today took the National Assembly to its lowest ever.

“I have been a member of Parliament since 1997 and in all of the 20 years, I have never witnessed anything like this. When there has been a Government and an Opposition, there has been an opposition and there has always been a Speaker. The Speaker has always been shown respect. Whenever the Speaker has invited a member to sit, be quiet, to refrain or withdraw that has always been complied with. We have set a new precedent today. Some may say we have descended into a new low”, Minister Trotman added.

Minister Trotman, himself a former speaker, reminded that Doctor Barton Scotland was acting within the ambits of Parliamentary procedure and encouraged the opposition to bring a quick resolution to the matter.

“As a former Speaker… the Speaker from what I have seen has taken all the correct procedural steps and it is for the Clerk if he feels that the Sergeant-at-Arms is incapable of enforcing the speaker’s ruling to invite the Police in, and none of us would like to see chaos erupting further in the house. There is enough of it. At the end of the day, the parliamentary system we practice under is where the Speaker is the presiding officer, and that presiding officer must be shown respect and the dignity of the house has to be maintained. I would urge the members of the Opposition to try to de-escalate the situation. The speaker cannot be expected to assume the chair where there has been a breakdown of order”, he emphasised.


By: Kidackie Amsterdam


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