Internet Radio

Clerk refuses to convene House; President hints at sitting soon; Speaker appeals for help with constitutional crisis

Parliament Building

Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman on Wednesday said Guyana has plunged into a constitutional crisis because the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs has refused to convene Parliament on the basis that only the government can instruct when that should be done.

Isaacs has said that his decision was based on consultations with other Clerks in a number of other Caribbean countries.

Trotman publicly appealed for help in resolving the situation, against the backdrop of the 33 opposition members calling for the House to resume sittings now that the two-month parliamentary recess has ended on October 10, 2014. The House last met on July 10, 2014 when goverment moved that the House be adjourned to a date to be fixed.

As a majority of Members have indicated their desire for the National Assembly to meet, the nation is confronted with a clear and unvarnished constitutional crisis and all stakeholders will have to work together to resolve it. As the sitting Speaker I invite all well thinking Guyanese to join me in examining all viable options and avenues to break the impasse in the interest of our beloved nation. in this regard I stand ready to entertain all reasonable suggestions and anticipate an early closure of this unfortunate development,” said Trotman.

Addressing the opening of the National Toshaos Conference, President Donald Ramotar only said the House would meet again soon but he gave no time-frame or precise date. “We have absolutely no interest in styming our parliament from meeting and parliament will meet in the very near future to deal with all the situation that will come for it,” he said.

Among the issues expected to be on the Order Paper is an Alliance For Change (AFC)-sponsored no-confidence motion that could result in the government having to step down and elections being held in three months.

Ramotar noted that this was not the first time that the House would have met in November after the end of the recess.

Following is the full text of the Statement by the Speaker of the House:

Not for the first time in the forty-eight year history of the National Assembly, the Speaker and the Clerk are at odds over the power of the Speaker to convene the sittings of the National Assembly. Today, October 29, 2014, I was formally notified by the Clerk of the National Assembly that after consideration, my request for the National Assembly to be convened on Thursday, November 6, 2014, cannot be given effect to by him because he is of the view that the Speaker lacks the authority to convene sittings of National Assembly under Standing Order 8 (1) and (2). I will be writing to the Clerk to register my disagreement with his interpretation of the Standing Orders and his consequent position adopted I will also advise in writing the Leaders of the political parties in the House. 

This is a most unfortunate position arrived at, and obviously arises out of a very narrow interpretation of the Standing Orders, and of the prevailing circumstances whereby the National Assembly entered into recess and has emerged from that recess, and a majority of Members desire to meet. The National Assembly must resume sittings and cannot be bound by the whims of the Executive branch to have to await its consent before meeting. Such an interpretation flies in the face of the doctrine of separation of powers, and the constitutional right of the elected representatives to meet to perform their functions.

The roles of Speaker and Clerk of the National Assembly are regulated by the Constitution and the Standing Orders. As constitutional officers, both are expected to work symbiotically for the National Assembly to be able to properly discharge its constitutional roles and functions. It is the duty of the Clerk to convene the sitting by making all arrangements including, summoning and ensuring the attendance of Members, and the preparation and circulation of the Order Paper. The Speaker performs the role of “Presiding Officer” once the Assembly is convened; whilst the function of convening National Assembly remains the sole preserve of the Clerk.

The effect of the Clerk’s decision not to convene the sitting has the effect of crippling the ability of the Members of Parliament to meet. This in itself brings the Constitution into derision and disregard and cannot be what the framers of our Constitution intended.

As a majority of Members have indicated their desire for the National Assembly to meet, the nation is confronted with a clear and unvarnished constitutional crisis and all stakeholders will have to work together to resolve it. As the sitting Speaker I invite all well thinking Guyanese to join me in examining all viable options and avenues to break the impasse in the interest of our beloved nation. in this regard I stand ready to entertain all reasonable suggestions and anticipate an early closure of this unfortunate development.