[www.inewsguyana.com] – Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, says the absence of the opposition Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) from the National Assembly will erode the Legislature’s scrutiny effect even as the Party says it may not participate in the scrutiny and debate of several pieces of legislation that are to be laid in the National Assembly on Thursday.
It was PPP/C General Secretary, Clement Rohee, who yesterday [Monday] said the Party definitely will not attend Thursday’s National Assembly sitting, and expressed uncertainty as to when it will take its 32 seats during the course of the 11th Parliament.
“I can’t say again for certain when is it we will go to the National Assembly with our MPs, whether it is during the first 100 days, whether it will be to debate those matters.” He did confirm that “for certain we are not going on Thursday to debate the President’s throne speech,” the General Secretary said.
Two weeks ago, Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, said the absence of the Opposition Party from the Legislature will work against its ability to scrutinize the work of the Executive. He said that the various Sectoral Committees, as well as several Standing Committees cannot be established without the Opposition Party’s attendance.
During an interview yesterday, Harmon said the input of the PPP/C in the debating of Bills to be tabled on Thursday may lend to the coining of more robust legislation, as he again called for the Party to take its seats in the National Assembly.
Last week, Parliament Building indicated that government will bring four bills – the Fiscal Management and Accountability Bill 2015, the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2015, the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities Bill 2015, and the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2015 – for first readings in the National Assembly on Thursday, June 25.
It is likely that they will be read for the second time and debated at the following sitting, at which time they will also be voted on.
None of the proposed legislation seeks to amend entrenched constitutional provisions and therefore require only a simple-majority vote in the National Assembly to be passed. In other words, they can be passed without the support of the PPP/C.
Even so, Harmon says, “We are looking forward to the debates. We are prepared for a robust debate. You get better scrutiny and better Bills when they are robustly debated. We trust that Mr. Rohee and the PPP recognise this and go into parliament.”
Harmon also argued that “It is not the right of the Party to decide when to go and when they will not go to the National Assembly…Mr. Rohee is in a representative capacity and when you are representing people you have to ensure that their interests are paramount…it is not, in my view, a right he has to exercise whether the Party comes to the National Assembly, it is a responsibility he has to discharge.”
In the just concluded elections, the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) + Alliance for Change (AFC) coalition won just over 207,000 of the votes cast while the PPP/C won just over 202,000.