At the stroke of 1 o’clock this morning, the National Assembly with the governing People’s Progressive Party using its majority, adopted the report of the Privileges Committee and went ahead with the suspension of eight Opposition Members of Parliament.
The motion to adopt the recommendation of the Privileges Committee was put to the House by Minister of Governance Gail Teixeira and supported by Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Joinder list member Lenox Shuman.
The APNU+AFC Opposition played no part in the debate of the motion. The coalition had objected to the recommendation of the Privileges Committee to suspend the Opposition Members of Parliament over the fracas that enveloped the House back in December during the presentation of the Natural Resource Fund Bill.
The MPs that are to be suspended are Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones, Ganesh Mahipaul, Sherod Duncan, Natasha Singh, Vinceroy Jordan, Annette Ferguson, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, and Maureen Philadelphia. Some are to be suspended for four sittings while others will face suspension for six sittings.
The recommendation for the suspensions to be handed down came from the Government members of the Privileges Committee which is chaired by the Speaker as the Opposition members stayed away from most of the committee’s meetings on the issue.
The Opposition Members also filed Court proceedings against the suspensions but the matter has not come up for a hearing as yet. The Opposition is maintaining that the suspension of the eight Members of Parliament is illegal since there was no fair hearing and the Members were never allowed to appear before the Committee that handed down the sanctions.
Governance Minister Gail Teixeira defended the decision to suspend the Members of Parliament, declaring that proper parliamentary conduct must always be maintained.
“I hope this will not be seen as just another battle to win, but to sit and think quietly was it all worth it. What badge of honour have you got out of this behaviour and what sort of example have you given to the Guyanese people and the Guyanese young people who saw that tape. And so Mr. Speaker I support these recommendations”, Minister Teixeira said.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall who also supported the suspension of the eight Opposition Members made reference to the move by the Opposition Members to the Court to challenge the suspension. He said the judiciary should exercise caution and care in approaching an issue of a parliamentary committee.
“Mr. Speaker, the matter is already in the Court and I suspect and I have no doubt that the record of tonight’s proceedings will become part of the Court proceedings…When the Parliament exercises its powers to discipline its officers, those innately and intrinsically Parliamentary functions. So if another agency or organ of the state wants to be part of those functions, it is that other agency that has to be careful that it will not trespass on the province of Parliament”.
The APNU+AFC has rejected the suspensions and has also noted that in previous cases when issues arose in Parliament that were before the Court, the Speaker disallowed any discussion on those issues.
The Speaker was informed in writing of the move to the Court by the eight Opposition members.