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Speaker lifts ban on Manickchand

Minister of Education Priya Manickchand

Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman on Thursday lifted a ban on the participation of Education Minister Priya Manickchand in the budget debate.

At the start of the day’s sitting Trotman said he was inclined to rescind the ban following a review of the tape of the incident that led to the action.

During Tuesday’s session APNU Shadow Human Services Minister Volda Lawrence was urging government to do more to assist victims of sexual assault and statutory rape.  Manickchand then heckled, saying that they should “ask APNU member Sharma.”

She landed in hot water after Speaker Raphael Trotman found her reference to A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) parliamentarian, Jaipaul Sharma to be distasteful.

Sharma’s father, Chandra Narine Sharma, is currently before the court for alleged sex-related offence.

The Speaker vowed that, in keeping with guidelines he issued Monday that he would not tolerate such expressions and behaviour. He urged Manickchand to apologise or she would be prevented from speaking during the debate.

However, on Thursday the Speaker said he had been convinced that it was the senior Sharma that had been impugned and not the MP thereby meaning there was no need for an apology to him.

But the APNU on Thursday also issued a statement in response to one made by Manickchand the previous day. The minister apologised for the disruption her comment had caused in the House but stopped short of apologising to Sharma.

“A Partnership for National Unity is dissatisfied with the statement of the Minister of Education Ms. Priya Manickchand to APNU Member of Parliament Mr. Jaipaul Sharma. The Minister was heard to utter unsavory and totally unacceptable remarks during the Budget debates on Tuesday 3rd April 2014,” APNU’s statement read.

It added that Trotman’s call for her to apologise had been justified. “Mr. Jaipaul Sharma is a vital member of the APNU team. The Partnership stands solidly in support of him,” the statement concluded.

Following Trotman’s decision on Thursday APNU’s Chief Whip Amna Ally rose and said that they still believed an apology was necessary but she was overruled by the Speaker.