Home Opinion Opposition should not be deterred by Speaker’s ruling – Ramkarran
* ‘GREEN and YELLOWING’ of GUYANA
Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran believes that the parliamentary Opposition should not be deterred by the current Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland’s ruling on the issue of the “greening and yellowing” of Guyana.
On February 9, the National Assembly descended into a state of near chaos after People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament, Alister Charlie, expressed concerns over the Government’s apparent attempt to brand the country with the widespread usage of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) party colours on national services.
However, the House Speaker quickly intervened and charged that “green and yellow” are colours of the Guyana flag and, therefore, would not be an object for lampooning. He subsequently ordered that Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira’s microphone be turned off, disallowing her from making a point on the matter.
A huge debate has since taken centre stage in the political arena regarding the usage of the colours green and yellow and more importantly, the Speaker’s ruling on the issue.
Expressing his views on the matter, Ramkarran indicated that there was no detailed rationale for the Speaker’s ruling and consequently, the PPP/C should not be deterred from mounting a public campaign on the issue.
In his weekly blog ‘The Conversation Tree’, Ramkarran penned that the word “lampooning” was used in a broad sense, meaning criticising and objecting to, and as a result, people were left to wonder whether Dr Scotland’s ruling meant that no criticism could ever be made of the use of the green and yellow colours at all in the House, or whether criticism of the use of the colours would only be disallowed if it related to the Government’s use of them to paint public objects.
“My understanding of the Speaker’s decision, by his use of the word ‘lampooning,’ without more, is that a wide interpretation is justified. There was no limitation on his decision. The ruling means that there must be no ‘lampooning’ of the colours in the House for any reason. For example, the Prime Minister, a Christian anti-communist, who served for 50 years in a Hindu, communist party, architect of our current Constitution and an initiating voice for the two-term presidential limit, now acknowledging its potential dangers of corruption in the second term, can rise in the House and declare ‘Mr Speaker, I move that the cannons guarding the northern entrance of the Parliament Buildings be painted in two colours of the flag, green and yellow.’ Alister Charlie, MP, would not be permitted to say, ‘I object.’ The motion would pass with speaker after speaker supporting it and without a single dissenting opinion being permitted,” Ramkarran reasoned as he reminded that the Speaker’s rulings were final.
In further explaining his position, Ramkarran proffered that criticisms, in accordance to the Standing Orders, can be made of various officials such as the President, Judges, Members of Parliament and other public officials but only if a motion is tabled for the purpose.
However, the Standing Orders do not refer to the flag or its colours as permissible subjects for a motion.
“It is, therefore, not known, by virtue of the Speaker’s ruling, whether a motion on the issue can be allowed,” Ramkarran stated.
He posited that apart from the absence of specific authority in a Standing Order, a member may object to the motion on the ground that the colours were being utilised by the Mayor, who has an inclination for the colour green, and not by the Government.
“In other words, it is not ‘Government business’. The Speaker would then be forced to reject the motion, as he did with the Opposition’s motion on the rice industry, on the alternative ground that the use of the colours is not ‘Government business’ and that, therefore, the motion does not qualify for debate,” Ramkarran explained.
On this note, he expressed that the Opposition should not be discouraged.
During a recent news conference, PPP/C parliamentarian Priya Manickchand first raised the issue of politicising the country by branding Guyana in green and yellow.
She stated that the Government was forcing its political ideology on Guyanese who did not subscribe to it by using the colours.
The PPP/C MP detailed the fact that bridges, sections of public infrastructure and even the bicycles, boats and buses in President David Granger’s “Three Bs” programme were painted in green and yellow.
Some Opposition officials said that the decision by the Government to “paint everything green and yellow” is a return of “vintage Burnhamism” and brings back stark memories of the days when the party was above the State, with the PNC flag being flown over the Supreme Courts and other buildings that housed State entities.
They recalled “the days when the Army and Police were forced to pledge allegiance to the Burnham regime”. (Reprinted from today’s Guyana Times)