Uproar as Opposition MP upbraided for publicly criticizing Speaker

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By Bibi Khatoon

There was chaos in the National Assembly as Opposition Member of Parliament Harry Gill was Monday sent to the Committee of Privileges over a letter he penned in the newspapers calling out the Speaker for being “biased” in his rulings.

The letter “There are inconsistencies in the Speaker’s rulings on sub judice and other matters,” was carried in Monday’s edition of the Stabroek News.

In fact, the day’s sitting of the National Assembly which was slated to start at 14:00hrs was delayed by over an hour, as the Speaker said the matter of “very major importance” was brought to his attention just as he was about to enter the Chamber.

“The conduct of the Speaker (of the National Assembly) cannot be criticized except by way of a substantive motion,” is the known Parliamentary practice, the Speaker said.

In the letter to the editor, Mr. Gill outlined several instances where he alleged the Speaker was biased, noting that he “imposes his authority to disrupt an Opposition MP on a roll during the debates, or simply to prevent bad news from reaching the press.”

Reading the Parliamentary Standing Orders, the Speaker noted that “reflections on the character or actions of the Speaker, for example, an allegation of bias could be taken by the House as a breach of privileges and can be punished accordingly.”

Dr. Scotland deemed the conduct of Mr. Gill as “an affront to the Office of the speaker, the person of the Speaker and to the dignity of this House.”

It is not the first time that the conduct of the Speaker has been publicly criticized but Dr. Scotland felt that his reluctance to address the matter before has led to the continuous breach of the rules of the Assembly.

After the Speaker raised his views, Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo who is the head of the Government’s business in the House moved a motion for the Opposition MP to be sent to the Committee of Privileges, the Committee which can try a member and impose disciple, which could include suspension from the House.

Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo

Though the Speaker said the matter was only brought to him an hour before, the Prime Minister had prepared notes on the subject.

“An attack by a sitting member of the National Assembly, imputing bias and partisanship on the HonourableSpeaker of the House transgresses the normative rules of the house and ordinary citizens of the House will be enraged by a cavalier method of going outside of the National Assembly…to launch a politically premeditated attack on the Speaker,” Nagamootoo said.

Though he was barely audible above the protests of the Opposition Members of Parliament –whom the speaker tried, in vain to silence –the Prime Minister sought to defend the Speaker.

He further dubbed the protests from the Opposition as support for the actions of MP Gill.

The motion was carried by the Speaker who said: “the motion was properly made.”

The Privileges Committee is chaired by the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira subsequently stood to offer a comment on the motion which she said misquoted the Standing Orders.

Teixeira argued that the Members of Parliament should be given freedom of expression outside of the House.

Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira

However, her comments were disallowed by the Speaker since she was given his permission to speak. The Speaker then asked that her comments be “expunged from the records.”

This also did not sit well with the Opposition.

Subsequently, Teixeira along with Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Member of Parliament, Anil Nandlall exited the House.

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