By Samuel Sukhnandan
A seemingly fired up Bishop Juan Edghill told the media on Thursday that he plans to return to the National Assembly after his four-day suspension ends but with more questions for Government.
The Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament (MP) said the order paper for each Parliament Sitting makes provisions for members to ask up to five questions at every sitting.
“…and if they believe that suspending me for four days is the end of Bishop Edghill, whenever I get back into Parliament they will be answering in writing, because all the questions I couldn’t ask in the Committee of Supply, once they were not asked, I will seek an oral or written response,” he said.
Edghill also had a message for MPs on the Government benches, “they ain’t off the hook.”
The Opposition MP maintains that his suspension was to muzzle him from asking pertinent questions in relation to the estimates and expenditure for the 2018 national budget.
He said there are many unanswered questions he wishes to have addressed and stated that the Government will at some point have to provide answers or clarity on each one of them.
Edghill said if he had the chance to continue his scrutiny of the estimates, he would ask why is it that the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP) budgeted for vacancies when this is strictly prohibited.
Another issue raised by the MP was the fact that there is no Integrity Commission, yet $21M has been budgeted for that.
Shifting his attention to another issue, Edghill noted that the Department of Public information (DPI) formerly the Government Information Agency (GINA) has been allocated $35M more this year than what was allocated to GINA last year. GINA had $215M in 2017 and the DPI is now getting $250M.
“So, there is a slush fund of $35M more to DPI and by the way, why are you resourcing the DPI with that extra money, when every minister now has their own public relations outfit. So, public relations in the Government have grown significantly. Some ministers have four staff in their media outfit and so you have a public relations outfit that was swollen which should have shrunk,” he posited.
The Opposition MP also pointed to the $68M that has been budgeted for 2018 to an unknown entity or organisation and the $218M ‘slush fund’ provided to the Ministry of Citizenship.
Another point raised by the MP, was the fact that there was an enormous increase in staffing at the MOTP. According to Edghill that agency now has an additional 168 people. “We wanted to know where these people will be housed. Which building you putting them in? We believe these are political operatives in the region but they have added them to the payroll,” he added.
Acting on instructions from the Speaker of the National Assembly, Police on Tuesday barred Edghill from entering the Public Building and he was subsequently arrested.
This move came in light of Edghill’s refusal to be removed from the parliamentary chambers after he was ordered to by House Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland, who on Monday accused the Member of Parliament of being out of order after he was seeking more time to scrutinize the estimates.
On Tuesday last, a motion was advanced by Government Chief Whip Amna Ally and subsequently passed in the National Assembly suspending Edghill from four Sittings.