The parliamentary Opposition – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – has the
freedom to move a no-confidence motion against Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland if it believes he is not impartial.
This is according to former Clerk of the National Assembly, Frank Narain, speaking on the Opposition’s cries of biasness being displayed by the Speaker. He, however, pointed out that there was no guarantee that the no-confidence motion would be passed since the Government has a one-seat majority.
The Opposition, since taking up its seats in the National Assembly, has been criticising what it says is the partisan behaviour of Dr Scotland. It said the operations of the House had been drifting away from parliamentary norms.
On Monday, the Party walked out of Parliament, after the Speaker cut short the consideration of estimates for the 2016 National Budget. The Party said the move was “unfair”.
Speaking with Journalists moments after the walkout, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said the instances of the behaviour in question, which has been occurring over time, are overbearing: “We have not on many occasions – when subject to extremely partisan behaviour on the part of the Speaker – voiced, or been vocal about this disagreement. We
have respected his ruling in most of those occasions. But this is becoming overbearing.”
The issue that sparked the walkout was the Speaker’s decision to close off matters for the evening. It was just around 23:00h and during a time when the Opposition was posing questions regarding monies allocated to Amerindian communities.
“As of now, Government has passed expenditure relating to the Amerindian people and the people of this country will never be able to understand fully what is in the estimates because the Speaker of the Assembly, who is supposed to be non-partisan, has ruled in an extremely partisan way and has exposed his proclivity to do this to the PPP… This is totally unacceptable behaviour in the National Assembly,” Jagdeo said.
He added that since coming to Parliament, Opposition members have been “restrained”.
The former Clerk of the National Assembly told Guyana Times that the Speaker has the right to make decisions based only on the Standing Orders. He said, however, the Opposition had ways through which it could take action.
“They can bring a motion of no confidence in the Speaker,” he said. But this will most definitely cause some difficulties since Government has the majority.
He said the Speaker has the power to rule by the Standing Orders of the National Assembly.
“Generally, a Speaker is elected by the House and it is usual that the majority would elect him and it may be that the Speaker may want to side with the majority, who has put him there. The majority can also remove him. So he might be inclined at times to see with the majority. But he still has Standing Orders to be guided by,” Narain, who retired 14 years ago, told Guyana Times.
Meanwhile, political commentator, Dr Henry Jeffrey said he was sure that the Speaker has been abiding by the Standing Orders of the House.
“I am certain that the Speaker has been saying that he is making his decisions based on his interpretation of the Standing Orders.”
Sharing his views on the matter too was economist Ramon Gaskin, who said he saw Dr Scotland as a professional man.
“You have a very rambunctious Parliament there. All 65 of them knocking the table like a fish market, so he has a difficult job in trying to control those guys,” Gaskin said.
Over the weekend, former Speaker Ralph Ramkarran had sought to console the Opposition, saying that it need not be deterred by the Speaker’s ruling on another issue that has been fuelling criticism in some sections of the public
Last week, the National Assembly descended into a state of near chaos after PPP/C Member of Parliament Alister Charlie expressed concern 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.
However, the House Speaker quickly intervened and charged that “green and yellow” were colours of the Guyana flag and, therefore, would not be subject to 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 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 of the Speaker’s ruling and consequently, the PPP/C should not be deterred from mounting a public campaign on the issue.