In a letter to Trotman advising of the postponement to August 7, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds said the move was aimed at securing time to hold high-level negotiations on bringing back the rejected Hydro Electric Power (Amendment) Bill and a motion to hike Guyana’s debt ceiling from GUY$1B to GUY$150B to the 65-seat National Assembly. They were voted down by the majority opposition at last week Thursday’s sitting.
“The government has decided to postpone the sitting…to allow for the last opportunity in this session before the recess for further consultations at the highest levels with the objective of restoring these items and ensuring their safe passage through the National Assembly,” Hinds said in his letter which was copied to Opposition Leader, David Granger; Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs; Government’s Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira and Opposition Chief Whip, Amna Ally.
Hinds sought to assure the Speaker that the postponement of the sitting would provide more time for the parliamentary parties to “attempt to reach consensus on this most significant and single largest transformative development project.”
While the House had late Wednesday afternoon announced that the sitting would have been postponed, the House Speaker later advised the two Chief Whips and Ramjattan that the sitting would be convened even if it meant that the scheduled business could not ahead. Following protests by the Opposition Leader and the AFC leader, Trotman said he has accepted the view that the Sitting could not be adjourned by a letter sent by either side of the House or an individual letter but by a sitting.
On reflection, and taking everything into consideration, he concluded that as the House adjourned the sitting to July 25, then it is for the House, meeting in session, to adjourn to August 7.
“Inevitably, we will have to adjourn whether we debate the Motion or not. However, I am of the opinion that the status of the House will be diminished if we just simply adjourn through a letter being issued. A formal request will have to be made with the reasons already stated. I cannot contemplate a situation where the Leader of the Opposition sent a similar letter,” said the Speaker in correspondence seen by Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).
With the two-month parliamentary recess expected to begin on August 10, the opposition accused government of trying to derail the passage of four pieces of legislation that are critical to the holding of Local Government elections later this year.
“APNU feels that the PPPC is not interested or committed to debating the four local government bills that are before the house. The Prime Minister’s attempt to Postpone tomorrow‘s sitting sabotages the debate on the four bills and any chance of local government reform before the Parliamentary recess. The Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) has shown by its action that they are prepared to hold the local government bills hostage,” APNU said in a statement.
On the issue of the Local Government Bills, the Speaker noted that they were still within the custody and control of the Government and the House cannot compel the Government to proceed with them.
Prior to Trotman’s decision to convene the sitting, Granger and Ramjattan had said that they would have been going to Parliament Building. They contended that the Prime Minister’s decision violated the Standing Orders of the National Assembly and, if allowed, would have created a precedent that would have allowed government to cancel sittings at will.