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8 APNU+AFC parliamentarians ask High Court to block suspension, challenge constitutionality of hearing

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 July 2022, 18:28 by Denis Chabrol

Eight opposition parliamentarians on Wednesday moved to the High Court to challenge the constitutionality of their impending suspension from sittings of the National Assembly because they allegedly participated in an unrest in the National Assembly last December.

The lawsuit was filed jointly one day before Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly at which the Report could be brought up for discussion and decision.

They say they were not given a right to a hearing by the bipartisan Privileges Committee which has since recommended that they be suspended.

The report shows that they were invited to show cause why they should not be punished, but instead they replied asking for details of the offences. Further, they denied having committed any of the acts that they have been accused of.  The Committee relied on live video recordings and testimonies by the media and staff of the Parliamentary Office.

The incident occurred on December 29 in an effort to block debate and passage of the Natural Resource Fund legislation.

Based on the report of the Privileges Committee, Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones, Sherod Duncan, Natasha Singh-Lewis and Mahipaul would be suspended from four consecutive sittings for conducting themselves in a gross disorderly, contumacious, and disrespectful manner, and repeatedly ignoring the authority of the Assembly and that of the Speaker, and thereby committing contempt and breaches of privileges.

Also parliamentarians Annette Ferguson and Vinceroy Jordan would be suspended for six consecutive sittings for additionally for committing serious violations which were severe and egregious by unauthorizedly removing the Parliamentary Mace from its rightful position in a disorderly fashion, causing damage to the Mace, injuring and assaulting a staff of the Parliament Office, while attempting to remove the Mace from the Chamber.

Further, parliamentarian Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, according to report, would be suspended for six consecutive sittings for unauthorizedly entering the communication control room of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre and destroying several pieces of audio-visual equipment, being public property.

In the court action filed against the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir and the Clerk of the National Assembly, the eight parliamentarians want the High Court to declare that  that the Report of the Parliamentary Sessional Select Committee of Privileges is unconstitutional and breaches the principles of Natural Justice

They say they were not afforded an opportunity to be heard by the Privileges Committee as guaranteed by Guyana’s Constitution.

According to the eight parliamentarians, the Privileges Committee performed a judicial function.

They also want the court to declare that the work and the report of the Privileges Committee cannot be regarded as independent and impartial because Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira sponsored the motion for them to face trial by the committee and also participated in the proceedings.

The High Court has also been asked to issue an order to all the eight opposition parliamentarians to perform their duties as Members of the National Assembly until they have been afforded the right to be heard

The parliamentarians want the High Court to block the Speaker and the Clerk of the National Assembly from  permitting, causing or allowing any consideration of the Report of the Parliamentary Sessional Select Committee of Privileges.

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July 2022