National Assembly sits today

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The National Assembly will sit today after not sitting for almost three months. This has been a most unfortunate place for democracy in Guyana given that this is the legislative branch of government.  The legislative branch is the most representative arm of government. It is the only branch where representatives of both the Government and Opposition are allowed to participate in open debates and deliberations on issues of national importance.
When the legislative branch does not sit or sits infrequently the people are being denied due representation and involvement in the management of the business of government. The National Assembly is the people’s forum, the highest decision-making forum of Guyana and when the legislature does not work the governance of Guyana is malfunctioning.

Today’s sitting will see several motions being heard. Some of these were brought by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government and the main Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition. One of the motions brought by the Government is a no-confidence motion to remove former Minister of Public Infrastructure and an AFC Member of Parliament, David Patterson, from chairing the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Though the no-confidence motion is likely to pass because the government has a one seat majority and could rely on the one seat of the combined opposition small parties, giving the government a total of 33 votes, the motion is not only ill-conceived but ill-contrived. As per the Parliamentary Rules the Opposition determines who will be the chairman/chairwoman of the PAC. This both the Government and Opposition are well aware of. It would therefore be a travesty to know what the rules require, in plain language, and move to determine otherwise.

It would also be a travesty if the one-seat combined small parties support the Government in disregarding this law. Of note the small parties include persons who are attorneys-at-law by profession. Some have also argued for respecting the rules and laws in defense of themselves. Today’s no-confidence vote will not only test the notion of might is right but regard or disregard for said rules.

There are other motions of interest on today’s Order Paper. They include dealing with Exxon’s flaring, and examining placement of off-shore facilities that could see a more equitable distribution of oil wealth through employment and business opportunities around Guyana. It is too expected the government will return to the Assembly with a supplemental budget. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo in a “GlobeSpan 24×7” interview said the government will be requesting a $10 billion supplementary funding to aid its ongoing flood-relief efforts.

Last but by no means least, the return to the National Assembly is good for democracy and Guyana. Guyanese look forward to their representatives bringing honour to the House and their title, debating issues in a manner befitting the august body. There are also expectations that the Speaker of the National Assembly will ensure the stature and Standing Orders of the Assembly are conformed to by all Members.



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