Last Updated on Sunday, 23 January 2022, 21:39 by Denis Chabrol
Amid fears that House Speaker Manzoor Nadir might impose serious sanctions on opposition parliamentarian Annette Ferguson and others over the chaos that erupted in the Chamber late last month to block debate and passage of wealth fund legislation, the opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) has filed a no-confidence motion against him.
“The Speaker has demonstrated partiality and brought the Office of the Speaker into disrepute and public ridicule and the National Assembly into public odium, as from the inception of his tenure, the Speaker has routinely shown bias against the Opposition and its Members by, inter alia, refusing to allow debates on matters of an urgent, definite and public nature,” states that motion.
After listing several alleged transgressions by the House Speaker, the motion calls on the National Assembly to “declare its loss of confidence” in him.
The governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has 33 seats, APNU+AFC 31 and the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) 1. Motions and Bills require a simple majority of the 65 seats.
The Speaker of the National Assembly has already denied being biased. “I wish to state, that as Speaker of the National Assembly, I have always conducted the business of the House in keeping with the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Guyana and other Parliamentary Procedures and Practices of the Commonwealth. Persons who are not familiar with Parliamentary Rules of Procedure would interpret the way I have been approving and disapproving questions and motions, and my rulings on certain matters, would claim that I am biased,” he had said.
The motion states that the House Speaker has refused to allow debates on matters of an urgent, urgent, definite and public nature, including the SARS-COVID-19 global pandemic; the nation-wide floods of 2021; striking down, refusing debate and unjustly amending opposition questions and motions; failing to protect Opposition Members, especially female Members, from the insults, invectives and abuses of government parliamentarians; failing and refusing to offer protection to an opposition parliamentarian who was allegedly physically assaulted by a government minister and ordering the “lock out” of elected parliamentarians from the Chamber.
But the House Speaker has said that “it is my duty as Speaker of the National Assembly to ensure that the business of the National Assembly is conducted in a fair, transparent, and orderly manner and this I will do until the end of my tenure.”
The APNU+AFC also on Sunday filed a separate motion calling for 22 government parliamentarians, including Prime Minister Mark Phillips, to be sent to the Privileges Committee for disciplinary action to be taken against them because their “conduct and behaviour was unparliamentary” and brought the Parliament and the National Assembly “into disrepute and invited public odium into the affairs of the Assembly.”
Both motions were moved by Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon and seconded by opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones.
In seeking to make out a case for the loss of confidence in the House Speaker, the opposition motion cites his refusal to heed calls by the opposition for the Natural Resource Fund legislation to be sent to a bipartisan select committee as well as several requests by a number of civil society organisations for debate to be pushed back. In that motion against Mr. Nadir, they sought to justify the removal of the mace on the grounds also that he had failed to acknowledge them although they had stood to gain his attention, and had encouraged Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh to continue with the debate on the law. “A scene of chaos erupted in the National Assembly whereby there was noise and all members were on their feet and the Speaker inexplicably, purported to allow the debate to proceed whereby Members of the Opposition were compelled to remove the mace from the dais; believing that this would halt all proceedings,” the motion states.
Ms. Ferguson has already publicly admitted to removing the mace, saying that she had been frustrated by the entire process.
The APNU+AFC also admitted that during the sitting of the National Assembly, “Members of the Opposition and Government ended up in a physical, loud and aggressive “face off” in the well of the National Assembly.”
The opposition maintains that the Natural Resource Fund legislation was not passed because the government MPs had not been seated and that a replica of the mace had been used.
Mr. Nadir is on record as warning that “the gross disorderly conduct of some of the members during the last Sitting of the National Assembly will not be condoned.”