Opposition Leader urges Speaker to reconsider his block on sugar forums

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…calls for impartiality

Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Barton Scotland

Following Speaker of the House, Dr Barton Scotland’s move to block the Economic Services Committee of Parliament from conducting public forums to reach those involved in the sugar industry, the Parliamentary Opposition is asking that he reconsider.

According to Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, the Speaker’s decision follows a pattern of decision-making in Parliament which appears to favour the coalition party. He noted that the Speaker blocking the Economic Services Committee was inconsistent, since he had allowed another committee to carry out similar exercises only recently.

“We’ve recently seen another inconsistent ruling from the Speaker (of the House) when he prevented the Economic Services Committee from seeking, what is part of its mandate, an outreach in communities to listen to members of the public and civil society in making recommendations to the National Assembly,” Jagdeo said, during a press conference on Thursday.

“Now the Speaker runs the risk of being seen as extremely biased, given past rulings and inconsistency of his rulings and these rulings, more often than not, are favourable to the government.”

Leader of the Opposition Dr Bharat Jagdeo

According to Jagdeo, there appeared to be bias in the Speaker’s decision-making. He went on to urge that the Speaker reconsider his decision and allow the Committee to do its work.

“I would urge the Speaker to be much more consistent in his rulings. How can you explain that just weeks ago, another committee, the Natural Resources Committee, visited several entities and places in Guyana. They went to Isseneru, Guyana Gold Fields, a number of places in the interior… and the Speaker did not prevent that from taking place. And when the Economic Services Committee, in this instance, wanted to visit the sugar estates and talk to people about the impact of the Government’s decision on the closure of these estates, the Speaker doesn’t allow it?” Jagdeo posited.

The Committee had requested leave to conduct these forums in Regions Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) on specific dates starting from June 7 to June 31. But in a letter dated June 5, 2017, and addressed to Clerk of Committees, Letta Barker, House Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland said a public forum did not seem appropriate for the Committee to undertake.

“I, therefore, disallow the request and withhold my consent for the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Services to conduct public forums under the cover of the National Assembly,” the letter stated.

The request was made under Standing Order (95) 8 and the purpose of the public forums was to receive the views of various stakeholders in the respective communities and prepare a report to be submitted to the National Assembly.

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