[www.inewsguyana.com] – Government’s Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira has dismissed the Speaker’s statement that the President has no power to reconvene Parliament as a “storm in a teacup.”
In an invited comment, she reminded that there have been calls by many people, including by sections of the political Opposition, for the President and or the Government to convene a sitting of the House.
Last week, President Donald Ramotar directed that the House be reconvened within 14 days. In keeping with this commitment, he subsequently made an address to the nation where he announced November 10 as the date for the House to be reconvened. The recess ended on October 10.
The Chief Whip explained that it is the head of the Executive, and not the Speaker that is the head of Parliament.
Subsequent to the President’s announcement of the date, the Prime Minister in his capacity as Leader of the House communicated the necessary information to the Clerk who is in charge of making the necessary arrangements in keeping with the established procedures.
Trotman had challenged the President’s move to reconvene the House following the Parliamentary recess which ended on October 10; saying His Excellency has no constitutional power to do so.
Trotman acknowledged that President Donald Ramotar has the power under Articles 69 and 70 to convene the National Assembly but only following a general election or a prorogation of the Parliament and not after a recess has ended.
“There is no question of any usurpation of any constitutional norm or any parliamentary practice. This is all a storm in a teacup,” Teixeira said.
The Government has drafted a Motion of Privilege against Leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan which it plans to move at the November 10 sitting. In September, at one of his Party’s press conferences, Ramjattan had accused the ruling Party of attempting to buy out three Opposition parliamentarians at $30M each.
Shortly thereafter, Teixeira wrote to the Speaker, calling for Ramjattan to retract his statement or provide evidence of the so-called bribery.
In the said correspondence, it was brought to the Speaker’s attention that the accusations made by the AFC and in particular Ramjattan, have brought the Parliament’s image into disrepute and are in fact, damaging to the integrity of the members of the House.
“Let him name who was bribed and who is the briber. We can’t be making reckless, unsubstantiated statements to the public and misinforming the public,” she said.
A Privileges Motion is granted solely on the Speaker’s discretion; he decides whether a prima facie case has been made out and whether the member, against whom the Motion is moved, should be sent to the Privileges Committee.
Moreover, a Privileges Motion does not require notice, and therefore can be raised immediately after written and oral questions have been addressed on a sitting’s agenda and the Government plans to do exactly this.
The Chief Whip said that the imminent parliamentary sitting is fraught with many possibilities ranging from a No-Confidence Motion to several other important matters on both the Government and Opposition’s agenda.
“It is anyone’s guess how everything will unfold. It could be a day of extraordinary importance or it could be a normal sitting with the usual sparring back and forth,” she jokingly submitted.
Meanwhile, another Motion has already been circulated under the name of APNU member, Joseph Harmon. This Motion seeks to amend the Standing Orders to allow for the Speaker to be able to convene a sitting of the House in instances when no date has been fixed.
Unlike the Privileges Motion however, this Motion has to adhere to the requisite 12-days notice period and as such it wouldn’t be ready for debate at the November 10 meeting. Nevertheless, the Opposition can move for a suspension of the Standing Orders to allow for their Motion to be addressed, but even so, no decision can be made on the floor with regards to this issue.
As per procedure, the Motion has to go to the Standing Orders Committee where it will be discussed in the hope of reaching a mutually accepted agreement. Importantly however, the Opposition has a majority in this Committee as they do in all of the others.
Teixeira said that whether or not Harmon decides to wait for the maturity of the Motion, does not take away from the constitutional concerns that the Government has of it. She said that the Motion appears to either denigrate or erode Government’s right or prerogative to convene a sitting.
“There are some issues in the language of the amendments that he has brought… so this will be hotly debated once it is laid in the Standing Orders Committee,” she said.
This same issue of who could convene a sitting was recently a bone of contention between the Speaker and the Clerk.
The Clerk shared the view that the Speaker does not have the authority to call a sitting and as such, refused to carry out his request to do same on November 6. The Clerk noted that after consulting with his counterparts in the region, it is clear that the Speaker only has that right when there is an adjournment date.
If passed, Harmon’s Motion will, in effect, not allow Parliament to be adjourned to a date to be fixed or sine die, which for all intents and purposes, is not an unusual parliamentary practice.
[Extracted and modified from GINA]