EYEWITNESS: Missing the point…


…on Parliamentary protocols

The Speaker and the Clerk – and a host of commentators — made a big stink about “the Protocols of Parliament” during the Budget Debate. The Clerk even issued a detailed list of “dos and don’ts” for the Parliamentarians. Nothing wrong with that, your Eyewitness is as peeved as anyone else at MPs eating in Parliament; (painfully) reading their speeches, or not genuflecting to the Speaker when leaving the Chamber etc.

But he’s even more peeved that none of these guardians of Parliamentary propriety are concerned about the trammeling of the more substantive rules with the tacit acceptance of the Speaker.

Take the matter of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who was sworn in to perform the duties of the President when the latter was away in Cuba. The Opposition made cogent arguments, citing the relevant sections of the Constitution, which ineluctably concluded this “squatting” just wasn’t kosher.

They then formally petitioned the Speaker to order Mr Nagamootoo to remove himself from the premises and not participate in the debate. The Speaker duly solemnly PROMISED to give a ruling on the petition. It’s a good thing the Opposition MPs weren’t holding their breaths waiting for the ruling; because, five days down the road, with the final aspect of the Budget – consideration of the Estimates – about to end, nothing’s been said by the Speaker.

And this is what’s so hypocritical about the big brouhaha over some MPs picking their noses in the National Assembly. Sure, it’s gross, but is that the alpha and omega of the “rightness” of Parliamentary behaviour? All the rules of Parliamentary practices that are intended to facilitate the fundamental values of constitutionalism are adhered to; and the most important is the “rule of law” – that no one is above the law — and it should be applied without fear or favour.

The Prime Minister, acting for the President, is not above the strictures of the Constitution. There has been one opinion proffered that the PRIME Minister is not a “Minister” and the Constitutional Articles cited by the Opposition refer to “Minister”. This is like saying a Prime number isn’t a number!! Nagamootoo might be a specific type of minister – the PRIME one – but he’s still a Minister who’s been sworn in to act as President.

Now, if the Speaker disagrees with the Opposition’s argument in their petition, he should so state, as he promised. By remaining mute, he’s allowing the matter to become moot, since the debate is going to be over. This is tantamount to ruling in favour of the Government, but without any stated reasons.

By worrying about form, he ignores the substance of Parliamentary procedures, and commits the sin of “ignoratio elenchi”, or missing the point.

…on gas for electricity generation

This fellow Patterson’s definitely full of gas on the 200MW gas-fired electricity plant he keeps mouthing off about. From the very beginning, Exxon’s been pointing out that our gas will be coming up with the oil – hence “associated gas” — and will be separated in their Floating Production and Storage Unit (FPSU). They’ve made it clear that it’s in Guyana’s interest to reinject the gas into the field to bring up more oil, rather than using far more expensive specialised “muds”. Since we’re receiving 50% of oil profits, and oil has a far greater selling price than natural gas, it’s in our interest to go along with it.

So, one wonders at the idee fixe of Patterson on his gaseous idea. Did he consider costs? There has to be the power plant; a liquefaction plant to convert and store the gas to LPG, then a regassification plant to supply the gas. Costing at least US$500M!!

And let’s not even talk about the transmission costs!!

…on Constitutional Change

Guyanese ought to heed this folk wisdom: “wha rain na full, dew cyaan full”!” when they hear about the Government summoning two meetings of the “Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Change” in as many weeks, when they only had one in the last YEAR!!


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