The Opposition People’s Progressive Party is not pleased with recent scolding of some of its Members of Parliament about what they could say and cannot say in the National Assembly.
The PPP called a press conference on Tuesday afternoon during the budget debates to complain that Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland may be descending into disrupting its Members during their budget presentations.
Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira made specific reference to the Speaker warning the House against naming Public Officers who do not serve in the National Assembly and therefore would have no way of replying to statements made against them or about them.
Ms. Teixeira believes that once the statements against the officials do not descend into a personal attack, the Members of the National Assembly ought to speak about those officials because it is all in the public’s interest.
“What I am dealing with is performance and we can do that with Permanent Secretaries, REO’s and any government official, including Ministers right through the whole system, and therefore this meeting is to do with the descent of the Speaker into this issue in which he basically says, we can’t talk about this anymore and he is infringing on our right to speak on observations”, she said.
The Chief Whip said she would like the Speaker to point to the Standing Order of the Parliament which prohibits any Member from making reference to Public Officers who do not serve in the Parliament.
PPP Member of Parliament and Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall said he cannot understand why persons are being treated as if they are children of a kindergarten school.
Mr. Nandlall said Members of the National Assembly enjoy certain privileges when they speak in the National Assembly since they cannot be sued for anything said there, and therefore he is confused as to the Speaker’s interruptions and statements about responsibility when offering statements.
“The Speaker has been descending and has been unduly restricting Members’ ability to speak to matters of importance. If I am the representative for Region 5 and my constituency has fed me information, I have a duty, not a discretion, but a duty to bring that, if it is sufficiently important and affects a large cross-section of people, who I am representing. It will affect people but that is why this place is called the Parliament”, Nandlall declared.
He said “this is not a kindergarten school where you have to be so careful and so circumspect about that which you are speaking”.
PPP members got upset on Tuesday during the budget debates on two occasions when the Speaker warned its Members over statements they were making in the National Assembly.
During the presentation of PPP Member, Neendkumar, the Speaker reminded him that he presides over a Parliament of a government side and an opposition side. That reminder came after Neendkumar referred to the Government as a “de-facto government” and the Government objected to the term.
Party officials would not say if they intend to make a formal complaint to the Parliament Office.