Guyana’s Private Sector Commission (PSC) Tuesday night condemned the calling in of police at Parliament Building to remove opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) parliamentarian, Juan Edghill after he refused House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland’s instruction to leave the Chamber.
“The involvement of law enforcement, apart from being an unacceptable overreaction, is an unfortunate occurrence. It does not augur well for our democracy. Any such display of lawlessness should never reoccur,” the umbrella business organisation said in a statement.
Appealing for patience and understanding by government and opposition parliamentarians, the PSC said lawmakers must be allowed to have necessary discussions on the budget. “The Private Sector Commission believes that, in the interest of the nation, parliamentarians have a right to seek clarification and a full understanding of the Budget as approved by Parliament.”
Chaos erupted Monday afternoon when PPPC parliamentarians encircled Edghill when several policemen entered the Chamber to refuse him after he was ruled out of order for persistently disobeying House Speaker, Dr, Barton Scotland’s order to take his seat after he was ruled out of order. Edghill had been expressing repeated concern that consideration of the Ministry of the Presidency’s 2018 budgetary estimates had been allocated the same time as last year’s although four new programme heads had been added to that ministry.
More than 50 policemen and policewomen were again Tuesday called out and stationed at various points inside and outside Parliament Building to prevent Edghill from entering Parliament Building. He was arrested after he went pass a police barricade at Brickdam and Avenue of the Republic in an attempt to enter Parliament Building. Edghill,, however, opted to walk to the Brickdam Police Station where he said senior officers could not state what offence he had committed, necessitating the lawmen blocking his entry. At the barrier, police had said they had received orders from Parliament.
Expressing “great concern” about the events of Monday, December 11 in the National Assembly, the PSC said the objective of Parliament is to allow the deliberation on questions of interest to the nation and to arrive at the will of the Assembly in a civilized manner. The business grouping said lawmakers must enjoy the right to challenge each other including the House Speaker. “The Private Sector Commission firmly believes that Parliament is the forum where its members must be free to challenge each other, including the Honorable Speaker, as they pursue the relentless representation of the people of Guyana,” the PSC said.
Parliamentarians, the PSC cautioned that if parliamentarians abuse their privileges when seated in the House, they “are subject to disciplinary action as determined by the Speaker in consultation with the Privileges Committee.”
The PSC called on all concerned to critically review Monday’s events and reflect on the negative impact these have had on Guyana’s international image.
Edghill was released on self-bail and he said he refused to sign a Guyana Police Force document that he was being investigated for allegedly assaulting a peace officer. Based on a motion by government Chief Whip, Amna Ally, the PPPC legislator was suspended for the remainder of all sittings on the budget up to Friday, December 15, 2017.
The Speaker said the penalty meted out to Edghill was “lenient”.