Police in Parliament is an unacceptable overreaction – PSC

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Weighing in on the unprecedented drama that unfolded in the National Assembly on Monday, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) contended that the decision to summon the police is an unacceptable overreaction as parliamentarians should be free to challenge each other, including the Speaker of the House.

In a statement to the media on Tuesday evening (December 12, 2017), the private sector umbrella body said it is extremely concerned about the precedent it has set and the impact on the country’s international image.

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 stated.

The Commission explained that the procedures to be followed by Members of Parliament (MP) in the conduct of their deliberations are clearly set out and the methods for dealing with dissenters are also established.

The Commission said members enjoy certain privileges when seated in Parliament and, if these are abused, are subject to disciplinary action as determined by the Speaker in consultation with the Privileges Committee.

Therefore, the PSC contended that “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 body lamented however that the “damage has already been done” nonetheless and it expects that all involved will critically review the events of Monday.

“It is a time to analyze and reflect on the negative impact these have had on our nation’s image internationally,” the body urged.

The PSC said it 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 the National Assembly.

“The debate should not be hijacked. The budget affects the life of each and every Guyanese and discussion around it are necessary. There should be patience and understanding on both sides of the floor,” the PSC reaffirmed.

On Monday, opposition parliamentarians clashed with the police as the law enforcement officers tried to uphold an order by the Speaker Dr Barton Scotland to evict Bishop Juan Edghill, MP.

Edghill refused to leave the Chambers when ordered to do so which prompted the Speaker to call on the Sergeant At Arms to execute his instructions. The Sergeant At Arms was unable to remove Edghill and the police were contacted.

Edghill has since been suspended from participating in the remaining sittings of the National Assembly during the considerations of the Budget Estimates.

He was arrested Tuesday on the corners of Brickdam and Avenue of the Republic as he was trying to make his way to Parliament. He was taken to the Brickdam Police Station and subsequently released on his own recognizance.

Edghill’s lawyer and former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall told a news conference on Tuesday at Public Buildings that the police also apologized to the PPP Parliamentarian. When asked several times why Edghill was arrested, senior police officials on the ground said they did know but acted on the instructions of Speaker of the National Assembly.

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