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No salaries for suspended parliamentarians

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 July 2022, 14:25 by Denis Chabrol

The eight opposition parliamentarians, who were suspended for their alleged participation in a violent ruckus during a sitting of the National Assembly late last December, would not be paid salaries and allowances until their suspensions have been completed.

With no dates set for upcoming sittings of the House, it is not clear how long they would have to await payments as six of them have been suspended for four sittings and two for six sittings.

They had attempted to block the debate and passage of the Natural Resource Fund legislation on December 29, 2021 on the grounds that there was no consultation with the political opposition or civil society. The eight opposition parliamentarians chanted, held placards and blew whistles. A number of them also dragged away the mace from in front of the Speaker  and allegedly disconnected audio visual equipment.

In letters to a number of the parliamentarians seen by Demerara Waves Online News, the Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs informed them that “during the period of your suspension, you will not be paid salary and allowances and not be entitled to some of the other benefits of a Member of the National Assembly.

A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) parliamentarian Ganesh Mahipaul rejected the non-payment of salaries, saying it was inconsistent with previous suspensions of Sherod Duncan and Juan Edghill.

“I want to draw the conclusion that the Clerk of the National Assembly is being interfered with when it comes to executing his function and I believe there is heavy politics involved in the administration of the National Assembly,” he added.

Based on the report of the Privileges Committee, Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones, Sherod Duncan, Natasha Singh-Lewis and Ganesh Mahipaul were 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 on December 29, 2021.

Also parliamentarians Annette Ferguson and Vinceroy Jordan were 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.

With the report having been adopted, 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.

The Clerk of the National Assembly also told them that as a result of the suspension they are not entitled to attend sittings of the National Assembly or meetings of parliamentary committees or enter the precincts of the National Assembly or any attend any other activity of the House “until the termination of your suspension.”

They were informed of their suspension in keeping with a government-sponsored resolution that was passed by a simple majority. Opposition APNU+AFC parliamentarians walked out during consideration of the matter, Contrary to House Speaker Manzoor Nadir, they said the matter was before the court and should not have been considered by the National Assembly.

Mr Nadir said the matter had been merely filed but not gone through the various stages including the setting of a date, and that there was sufficient evidence from live stream video and statements from parliamentary staff.

The case has now been fixed for hearing on August 4, 2022 at 11:30 AM.

Mr. Mahipaul said efforts were underway to obtain an order or injunction restraining the Clerk and the Speaker from enforcing the suspension until their case is heard.