The National Assembly has not had a sitting since March 2021. Additionally, all committee and sub-committee meetings were halted last month in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases. And when it comes to reconvening Parliament, a number of challenges still remain.
This was explained by Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir in an interview with this publication.
He noted that one of these challenges is the sheer expense to reconvene the committees.
Another is the climbing COVID-19 infections and death toll.
“The committees, we have this challenge that our initial submissions to connect people in the hinterland areas who are on the committees, was running into $5 million. When we looked at servicing the five or six Members of Parliament who would need the services, it would run into $25 million.”
“The second challenge is it’s no secret that the daily positive persons that are on the COVID dashboard is very high. On average every day it’s over 100 persons testing positive. The death rate is high, with persons dying every day. And while we’ve vaccinated and have a skeleton staff, we’re urging our staff to get vaccinated. We still have some staff that are reluctant,” he explained.
According to Nadir, he had asked Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Issacs, to consider having all Members of Parliament and others tested before being allowed to return. Surprisingly, however, the Speaker noted that there has been reluctance from some.
“So, this is now putting us in a very peculiar position to make some harsh decisions. I’m not prepared at this time to reconvene Parliament. I know how difficult COVID is to deal with, having gone through a very horrible time in January.”
“So, we have to get people tested, we have to ensure the environment is safe. Even if we have virtual sessions, we have to have the staff to operate the virtual meetings. And we’re still on skeleton staff. And we also have to ensure everyone has the virtual access. That continues to be a challenge for us.”
Last month, the Parliament Office had announced the suspension of all meetings of Parliamentary Committees and Sub-Committees at the Public Buildings, with immediate effect and until further notice due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.
According to the press statement from the Parliament Office, the decision was taken by the Speaker after five members of staff tested positive during the previous week.
“The Speaker has since instructed the Clerk of the National Assembly to sanitise the entire Building and to ensure that the COVID-19 guidelines are fully in place for Members of Parliament, staff, and visitors to the Public Buildings,” the release had stated.
The release also explained that the Speaker will give approval for virtual meetings of Committees only when he is satisfied that all Committee Members have access to the internet and equipment that would enable them to participate fully in meetings of Committees.
As of Tuesday, Guyana has recorded a total of 14,531 positive COVID-19 cases to date, following the detection of 89 new cases within the past 24 hours. The Ministry of Health’s dashboard indicated that 16 persons are in the ICU.
Meanwhile, 101 patients are in institutional isolation, 1640 in home isolation, and 17 in institutional quarantine. The death toll has risen to 331. However, a total of 12,443 persons have recovered.