Provoked by bankbooks, goats, sheep and the $100M house – Assembly debates income tax motion

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January 2016, 23:38 by Denis Chabrol

Opposition Member of Parliament Juan Edghill on Thursday moved a motion that would ask that Members of Parliament declare their income for the last 10 years that sent the House into a lively debate with loud heckling and witty remarks being hurled across the floor.

Edghill in his presentation told the House that the motion was a strong tool to ensure that there is transparency and office holders are not corrupt.

“If your hands clean open up the book and let the people of Guyana come and read it…Let the people say our hands are clean…this is an anticorruption  mechanism, it is a strong motion that is calling for that kind of support,” said Edghill.

He stated that all members of the House should support the motion since it is a common ideal and a rejection of the motion would be a slap in the face of the electorate.

“I am not expecting a no vote but just in case anyone decides to say no…It is a declaration that my walk is not in accordance with my talk…you will be telling those 700 and something thousand people…don’t listen to what I say because I am not prepared to walk what I talk,” he stated.

Effectively, the motion wants MPs to declare earnings for the last 10 years, which is three years beyond what is legally prescribed by law.

“This motion will separate the sheep from the goat…and this afternoon when we vote the people across the length and breadth of this country will start labeling who is sheep and who is goat. The day of reckoning is now,” said Edghill.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo then clarified made the point that the law allows for declaration of income from at least 7 years ago and not 10.

“The income tax law does not state that all Members of Parliament should file returns…the income tax law beholds all persons to declare their returns for the purposes of income tax – not members of parliament so the intention is misleading,” said Nagamootoo.

He indicated that the motion is premised on falsehood and is intended to make the House go against the law.

Even so, the Prime Minister pointed out that some persons may declare incomes of $10M then building sprawling $100M homes.

The Prime Minister put forward an amendment that would ask that assets and incomes of the MPs be declared.

“Declare from top down and bottom up your assets declared assets,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said that Nagamootoo’s comments were “fallacious and runs away from the real issue. It is obfuscation of the real issue before us.”

He said that there is no problem finding the declaration if the National Assembly passes a law to say that Members of Parliament must make public their declarations.

“That issue, the excuse that was made here that we are somehow required to do more than is required by the act is misdirection – does not deal with the issue at hand,” said Jagdeo.

He revealed the Opposition’s plan to submit an amendment to make public the integrity commission submissions for the last ten years and the GRA income tax returns.

“And we will urge the government to take criminal action against those who have not made integrity commission,” he stated.

An uproar later ensued in the House with Jagdeo saying that Nagamootoo showing his bankbooks does not prove anything.

“I am being provoked by bankbooks Mr Speaker,” said Jagdeo.

As the debate winded down and the amendments proposed by the Government were being considered, Edghill rose to his feet and invoked Standing Order 36 – attempting to withdraw the motion at the last minute.

The argument is that the amendments as proposed by the government would effectively change the nature of the motion and change the purpose of the said motion.

However the Speaker quickly informed Edghill that under Standing Order 36, a member can only withdraw a motion if there is no dissenting voice. He informed that Edghill would have to wait until the amendments were passed before making such a declaration – this was later done.

Again it was denied by the Speaker. The motion was then passed with the amendments as proposed by the Government side of the House.