Despite calls by the Opposition, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) for its no-confidence motion to be treated with urgency in the National Assembly before the presentation of the 2019 Budget, Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs on Wednesday said that the Standing Orders of Guyana’s Parliament are silent on the requirements of same.
The Opposition had said that November 26 was already scheduled to be private members day, where their matters take precedence. However, the reading of the National Budget has taken over that day.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had expressed fears that attempts would be made by the Government side to get Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, to schedule the motion to be heard some time after the budget.
Jagdeo had said that the convention is that once a no-confidence motion is filed, it takes precedence over other issues. “We hope this will be done and the Speaker will stand up to any attempt of the executive, because I’ve heard they want (the debate) in December, after the budget. We’re going to be watching carefully to see how the Speaker acts in this matter,” the Opposition Leader added.
However, Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge shares a different view. When questioned on the matter he said that the motion will not be debated before the budget at the next sitting of the National Assembly and that Government’s business takes priority. “It has no merit whatsoever and it has no chance of doing anything,” he said.
There was also some degree of speculation that one or two members could deflect whenever the matter is ready for voting; but Minister Greenidge brushed aside such claims, expressing full confidence that the Coalition Government will defeat the no-confidence motion.
“The confidence motion put by Mr Jagdeo is really with the intention just to give him the opportunity to berate the Government, it has nothing to do with the possibility of winning, he can’t win it. And the story about a possible deflection is nonsense, this is really just a device at a time when the Government has presented a budget, the Opposition thinks that they have done well in Local Government Elections to try and change the story. It has nothing to do with realistic opportunities and that is all” Greenidge berated.
On Wednesday evening, Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Iaaccs released a letter which states that Government has the power to determine when the no-confidence motion will be heard rather than the Speaker of the National Assembly.
He highlighted provisions in the standing orders of Guyana’s Parliament which allow this country to follow the Parliamentary practices of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, some of which date back to the 1800s and function today.
In this case, it was outlined that UK Government always accedes to the Opposition Leader’s demand to allot a day for the discussion of a motion to test confidence in the House.
The Opposition had expressed its fear that Government could perhaps have the Speaker Dr Barton Scotland schedule the motion to be heard some time after the budget though its Chief Whip Gail Teixeira maintained that hearing it before the budget is an ethical matter.