Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo believes the government’s move to have his presentation in the National Assembly be limited to 45 minutes, and further the consideration of the estimates of expenditure to three days, clearly demonstrates that it is afraid of scrutiny.
Mr. Jagdeo told members of the media at Parliament on Thursday that the earlier walkout allowed for members to meet and discuss these developments but said his party will never fall victim to the government’s attempts to muzzle him.
The Opposition Leader said he is also being prevented from making the penultimate presentation during the ongoing budget debates and he believes the government’s action shows that it is afraid of “several elements of the budget that are inconsistent with progress being exposed.
“We will never become victims, we will not allow the PPP to become victims because we represent a large number of people who voted for us… if I can’t speak in the Chamber, I will speak outside the Chamber and if we can’t expose the problems associated with the estimates here we will do it outside but we will never allow this government to muzzle us,” he said.
Jagdeo further explained that the move by the government, which boasts of standing on the foundations of transparency, good governance and inclusivity, is scary and seems to be an ominous sign of the things to come.
“The government is hell-bent on railroading every practice of this House that has been respected since Independence. When I sat in this House in the past on the government side, I saw the Leader of the Opposition Desmond Hoyte speak with several extensions to his allotted speaking time,” Jagdeo added.
He said he is most disappointed with the move to limit his speech 45 and make him the second to last speaker. “It is not just by design but part of pattern to muzzle me.”
It is the Speaker of the National Assembly who has been ensuring that all of the Members of Parliament stick to their allotted time during the budget debates.
Earlier on Thursday, the government passed a motion limiting the time for the consideration of the estimates of expenditure to three days from the seven days utilized in the past.
Jagdeo said “This is a bigger budget, it also has several new features in that Ministries were reorganized so if anything I thought more time rather than less time.”
Several party members held a press conference during the suspension of the sitting to raise these issues and also accused the government of being afraid of scrutiny and dishonesty.
Present at that press conference were government Chief Whip Gail Teixeira and MPs Clement Rohee, Irfaan Ali, Dr. Frank Anthony, Anil Nandlall and Juan Edghill who all urged the government to recall its motion and allow Jagdeo to be the penultimate speaker.
They accused the government of enagaging in attempts to cover up its mistakes as it unveils its “anti – Jagdeo” agenda. The MPs accused the government of a sinister plot and exalted Jagdeo as the only person in the House that can demolish the 2015 budget.