Government and Opposition MPs clash over role of Foreign Affairs Sectoral Committee

Government and Opposition MPs clash over role of Foreign Affairs Sectoral Committee

A meeting of Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee almost reached a point of chaos on Tuesday, according to Opposition MP and Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Amanza Walton-Desir.

She said during the meeting, the Government side appeared upset when the Opposition Members corrected them on several issues related to the Committee’s work.

“Hugh Todd’s attitude in the meeting today left much to be desired. In summary, Mr Todd told me I was crazy. He called me crazy, and then when I called him out on it. He tried to amend it by saying that I was behaving crazy – completely unacceptable from a sitting Minister of Government but in keeping with the attitude we have seen from this PPP/C Administration when it comes to its treatment of women in the National Assembly,” MP Walton-Desir.

The Opposition MP accused the Foreign Affairs Minister of first attempting to mislead the Sectoral Committee on its functions, with him reportedly contending that it was established to merely receive reports on Foreign Relations matters. But MP Walton-Desir said she had cause to remind the Committee that it was vested with a far greater range of power, than merely receiving reports, as provided for by Standing Order 86.

“He didn’t appreciate that correction and that clarification and so, for the beginning of the meeting he was quite belligerent and it got very heated in there to the degree that a male member from the other side walked over to our side and hit my mic down. And, he [Todd] failed to bring any correction to it. So, in the prosecution of our duties, as a member of parliament, that is the level of abuse that we have to suffer, and I have a problem with that. He failed to discipline Mr McCoy when he walked over, left his side of the House, walked over, and hit my mic down, turned it off and hit my mic down,” MP Walton-Desir said.

She said while the Opposition supports the Government on the issue of the Border Controversy, it will not “go along blindly” with every position taken. She said notwithstanding the “abuse” meted out to the opposition, the Opposition MPs sat through the meeting in the public interests.

But Minister Kwame McCoy, while denying that he hit down MP Walton-Desir’s microphone, said he turned it off in protest. According to him, the Opposition MP was disrespectful to the Foreign Affairs Minister, and constantly raised her voice during the course of the meeting.

“She disrespected the chair and the order of the chair and did not allow the chair to conduct the meeting in the way it ought to. She refused to listen to the chair,” he told News Source.

The Foreign Affairs Minister told News Source that while the Committee deliberated on the Border Controversy among other important issues, it was important to set the record straight on the functions of the Sectoral Committee due to common misconceptions.

“This committee is to advise. This committee has not been set up to direct the president on foreign policy. The president sets the foreign policy agenda for this country. The foreign ministry, which I am happy to lead, deals with the implementation of that agenda, and I had to make it very clear. So, the committee is not here to take instruction to take to the Executive. The Executive is that branch of government that deals with foreign policy; the legislature, this committee that falls within the legislature, deals with matters of updates,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first one in more than six months, and MP Walton-Desir has repeatedly called for it to be held more regularly amid increasing acts of aggression by Venezuela.

But Minister Todd told News Source that while the Committee had not met in months, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, he was actively pursuing the issues at hand at the level of the Executive.

“If there are many activities going on, we are engaged, the Foreign Minister is engaged. I am engaged in many activities dealing with those, I should say incursions, and I would like to say violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity, I am engaged in that with the Executive, that is where I am supposed to be. I can’t take leave from that to be in the committee because this committee is not going to treat with what happens at the Executives, this is for updates,” Minister Todd said.

He said the meeting of the Sectoral Committee on Foreign Affairs does not trump the work of the Government. He said the Opposition must be reasonable, and should not politicize the issue.

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