…expresses displeasure over Edghill’s suspension
The parliamentary Opposition has expressed grave disappointment with the move to have Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill suspended for the remainder of the examination of the estimates and expenditure of the 2018 Budget which ends on Friday.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo voiced his concern during a press conference earlier today (Tuesday), after members of the Opposition walked out of the Parliament Chambers over the reluctance of the Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland to allow for more time to scrutinise the estimates for several key sectors.
Jagdeo accused the Government of having serious reluctance at being scrutinised and said this was the main reason for the chaos that ensued on Monday. He said Government’s behaviour is being blatantly displayed in spite of all of its protestation that it is the one championing transparency in public life.
He also accused Government of showing disdain for the rule of law. “These were touted objectives before the elections, but every single day that passes in Guyana we have seen now, new evidence of this Government’s corruption and reluctance to be transparent with the people of Guyana. What we witnessed today, I think, has a lot to do with what happen last week in this country,” he explained.
For a while now, the whole question of whether the Government received a bonus from ExxonMobil had been talked about. However, the Opposition Leader feels that the issue was not intensely pushed because the Government has been extremely dismissive of any such suggestions from everyone.
“First of all, they wanted to fixate the issue, they didn’t want to address it and we were confronted with an outright denial of the receipt of the signing bonus,” he told the media.
Making reference to the incident that involved Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill on Monday, Jagdeo said even if he was in breach of the Standing Orders of Parliament, there are other ways of sanctioning the member other than causing the matter to escalate.
“…there have been several breaches of the Standing Order in the past and if he felt he could have suspended the sitting then he should have invited in the Chief Whips from both sides to address the matter,” Jagdeo opined.
The Opposition Leader also believes that the action taken against Edghill was based on the fact that he is one of the most aggressive questioners on the Opposition benches, someone who has vast experience on financial matters.
“…because he has quite a bit of knowledge coming as a former Minister of Finance, knowing about the estimates. We saw how he decimated the Public Infrastructure Minister in his presentation and it was this kind of aggressive kind of questioning that they wanted to avoid,” Jagdeo argued.
The Opposition Leader also stated that all Opposition MPs will continue to take part in the remainder of the consideration of Budget Estimates as it seeks to ensure there is scrutiny of Government spending.
“If we walk out from here they will get precisely what they want. That is why we decide to continue working while we fight the injustices against Bishop Edghill,” he added.
In referring to the incident where Edghill was arrested by the Police but later released on his own recognisance, Jagdeo said the MP’s Attorney had informed him that the instruction to make the arrest was given by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland.
“But the Speaker’s jurisdiction does not extend beyond this Parliament. Juan Edghill is a Member of Parliament and as a citizen of Guyana he enjoys freedom of movement. The Police were directed by the Speaker and half of the Police (ranks present) seem to be directed by Members of Parliament,” he added.
Jagdeo feels that the Government has succeeded to shield Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman from any questioning by the Speaker’s ruling. “They have descended into a plutocracy…they are all ‘hussling’ and I believe they are doing this because they see the writing on the wall. So everyone is hussling to fill their own pockets. That is what is happening now.”
Edghill was asked to leave the Parliament Chambers on Monday after he questioned the Speaker on the time allotted to discuss the Budget Estimates but decided not to follow that order.
This move created chaos in the hallowed chambers as the Police were later called in to have the MP physically removed but the ranks failed in their attempts after a human barricade was formed by his colleagues to prevent them from getting to him.
Parliament was later suspended and the MP and his colleagues remained in the Chambers until 22:00h. During this time, the electricity was purposely cut from the chambers so there were no lights, air conditioning or Wi-Fi available to anyone sitting in the Chambers.