Guyana’s longest serving Clerk of the National Assembly, Frank Narain has added his voice to the debate as to whether or not the no-confidence motion filed by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo against the Coalition Government should take priority in the National Assembly. Narain has unequivocally stated that the matter must be given priority.
The former parliamentary official who is now retired said he agrees with the current Clerk, Sherlock Isaacs, when he said Government has to decide when the motion should be heard since Government has the majority seats in the house but noted that it must be given the highest priority in the National Assembly.
Narain, who served briefly as Deputy Clerk after Guyana gained independence in 1966, and as Clerk from 1966 until 2002, concurred with his successor that motions are put on the Order Paper whenever the Government desires, noting that Government has to decide on the business for the Order Paper. The former official explained that this practice exists since Governments usually have a majority in the House, which allows the ruling Administration to fix the timings for sittings for the National Assembly. He outlined that this was not the case under the presidency of Donald Ramotar.
“When you look at the business of the Order Paper, before Budget Day, you only have tomorrow (Friday) and the Government didn’t fix a hearing and maybe they don’t want to have a sitting,” the retired Clerk reasoned.
He related that in his time in office, the Government always had a big majority, noting that the Speaker of the National Assembly had always come from the Government’s side back then.
His comments come just one day after Foreign Affairs Minister and 2nd Vice President Carl Greenidge expressed full confidence that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition will be able to defeat the Opposition Leader’s motion. Additionally, Greenidge indicated that the motion has “no chance” of being heard before the presentation of the 2019 Budget.
There had been some degree of assumption that one or two members from Government could deflect whenever the matter comes up and voting is required but Government has brushed aside such claims.
Clerk Isaacs released a letter on Wednesday evening outlining that Government has the power to determine when the No-Confidence Motion will be heard rather than the Speaker of the National Assembly.
It was after the 2018 Local Government Elections (LGE) results when the PPP/C garnered the majority of the victories that Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo filed the confidence motion. It was contended that the elections served as a referendum on the performance of the current Administration, especially at the Central Government level.
Among a host of concerns, the PPP cited heightened taxes, the loss of thousands of jobs in the sugar industry, sole sourcing of drug purchases and procurement breaches relating to the awarding of Government contracts as reasons for having lost confidence in the APNU/AFC. Moreover, Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira maintained that hearing the no-confidence motion before the 2019 Budget would be ethical thing to do.