The government is calling for consequences against some members of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition over their “terrorist” actions in the National Assembly during Wednesday’s debate of the Natural Resource Fund Bill.
At a press conference on Thursday, Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira expressed concerns over the ‘no-boundary’ posture of the Coalition Opposition – something which she said should be of concern to all stakeholders.
Teixeira posited that the chaotic events which unfolded in the National Assembly on Wednesday shamefully defiled the sanctity of the National Assembly, which is the country’s highest-law making institution.
“This display that we witnessed must not be taken lightly by anybody whether they like the PPP (People’s Progressive Party) or not, whether they like the government or not, whether they like the Bills or not. The issue is that the National Assembly – the legislature of the Guyana Parliament was violated. It was defiled repeatedly with the worst thing happening nearly at the end, and that is, the seizure – attempt to steal the Mace of the Guyana Parliament,” she stated.
The Opposition Members of Parliament on Wednesday evening protested the hearing of the NRF Bill, which they wanted to be sent to parliamentary Special Select Committee for review, by disrupting the session. Coalition MPs stood banging on their desks when the Bill was called up for debate and subsequently gathered in the pit of the Dome of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), where National Assembly sittings are being held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bill was eventually passed late into the evening but not before the Opposition’s protest escalated into a physical confrontation with Parliament staff after one of the Coalition MPs snatched the Parliament Mace from in front of the Speaker.
According to Teixeira, no matter where parliament sessions are being held, the space in the middle between the Government and Opposition sides is sacred ground and a peace zone. She said no one is allowed to be in that area.
“It’s a safe zone. You’re not supposed to, ever in Parliament, enter into that once the sitting is on. And they entered into it. But not only did they enter into it but they came right up to Dr Ashni Singh and surrounded him in a very intimidating and physically violent manner,” the minister recounted.
In addition to blowing whistles and holding up placards to disrupt the proceedings, the Opposition MPs also compromised the Control Room, disconnecting the internet and loudspeaker system in the ACCC Dome.
“We were totally disabled in the National Assembly. There was no internet, the control room had been invaded and disconnected and disrupted. This is a terrorist tactic,” she insisted.
The Parliamentary Affairs Minister maintained that Wednesday’s events in the National Assembly were not spontaneous but were preplanned, organised and orchestrated prior with the aim of delaying the passage of NRF Bill, which she contented was lawfully passed and is now binding and legal.
“I saw MPs jump on a desk to get on top to grab the Mace; this is not acceptable behaviour. In fact, we mustn’t take lightly what happened to the Mace… But the Mace is the symbol of the authority of the National Assembly. Any attempt to move it is, therefore, an attempt to undermine and to overthrow the authority of the National Assembly which is our legislature,” she asserted.
According to the Minister, the Opposition’s behaviour was a “treacherous act” and as such, there must be consequences for those who attempted to undermine and disrupt one of the three branches of government.
“Therefore, there must be consequences for this whether it’s a civil court, whether it’s a criminal court or whether it’s a ruling of the Speaker. But we must never take this lightly… When I saw the Speaker being knocked over by the persons trying to grab the mace, are we as Guyanese willing to accept such type of behaviour?… Do we accept that a bunch of people can run up to the mace and yank it from the Sergeant of Arms, injuring him and injuring another man who was thrown on the ground and called a “house slave” and whose spectacle and watch have been ruined… This cannot be …there must be decency in us,” she stressed.
The Parliamentary Affairs further acknowledged that even past PPP parliamentarians had misbehaved in the National Assembly but noted that their behaviour was never to that extent as was displayed by the Coalition Members on Wednesday.
To this end, Teixeira called for those responsible to be held accountable so that there is no reoccurrence of Wednesday’s events.
“What happened last night must not go down lightly because it’s saying that it’s okay to do this; that anybody could do this and it’s fine… This is unacceptable to undermine and try to stop, not just bill anymore, but to stop the institution – the legislature – from meeting.”
Also at Thursday’s press briefing, were several other ministers of government, including Dr Singh, who defended the passage of the NRF Bill.
This comes on the heels of the Government of Guyana, hours after the parliament session ended, issuing a statement to rebuke the Opposition’s “despicable and reprehensible” behaviour.
It noted that this hallmark piece of legislation, which has repealed the APNU/AFC’s 2019 Act, will ensure the security, transparency and accountability that Guyanese need in order to benefit from the oil and gas revenues. The Bill provides for a governance structure of how these monies will be used with continuous public disclosures, audits and Parliamentary approvals.
“Blinded by their anti-national stance they failed to notice that the Government was determined to proceed with the people’s business and conclude this historic piece of legislation on behalf of our people and nation. The PPP/C Government will not be derailed by threats, intimidation and bullyism; this has been affirmed during the long 5 months after the March 2nd General and Regional Elections when the same APNU+AFC Coalition tried to steal the elections and subvert the will of the people to elect their representatives at a free and fair elections,” the missive from the Government details.