Following Wednesday’s chaotic sitting of the National Assembly at which the Speaker’s Mace was removed from its place by an Opposition Member, the Government and Opposition are now haggling over whether the controversial Natural Resource Fund Bill was legally passed.
In a statement after the sitting, the Opposition APNU+AFC said the Natural Resource Fund Bill No. 20 of 2021 was not legally passed in the National Assembly.
“First, the Mace which is the symbol of authority and which must be present throughout the sitting of the Assembly when a law is to be passed, was not present. Secondly, the Standing Orders state that a Member of the Assembly must be in his or her seat to vote in the National Assembly. Most of the Government MPs were out of their seats, especially the Prime Minister who was on his feet waving. It is therefore clear that there was no legal vote”, the APNU+AFC contended.
It was during the presentation of the Bill that the Opposition began a loud protest in the Assembly with its members leaving their seats and marching around the Assembly. As the Minister of Finance was making his presentation, one of the Opposition Members grabbed the Speaker’s Mace and fell to the ground as the Parliamentary staff grabbed it back.
It was not the first time that the Speaker’s Mace was grabbed in the Assembly to block the passage of legislation.
In a late-night statement, the Government rubbished the contention of the Opposition and said the Bill was properly passed and will be signed into law.
“It must be noted at the time when the vote was called every Member of the Government side of the house was seated and voted for its passage. The mace was also in place at the time when the question was put to the house and the vote taken. The APNU+AFC Coalition and the rest of the opposition Members of Parliament should examine the video footage and other recordings of the events in the National Assembly that prove that the Natural Resources Fund Bill was lawfully passed and is now binding and legal”, the Government said.
According to the statement, there could be no spin by the Opposition that could change the sequence of events which unfolded in the House.
The Government has criticized the protest by the Opposition in the House over the Bill. There were calls by the Opposition and some civil society groups for the Bill to be deferred.