Opposition’s disruption of National Assembly meant to delay, obstruct passage of budget – Finance Minister

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The opposition’s disruption of the business of the National Assembly for two days in succession is meant to delay, obstruct and frustrate the passage of the 2021 national budget, Dr Ashni Singh, the country’s Minister of Finance said Thursday.

Protests by the Opposition APNU+AFC, in defiance of rules and standing orders of the National Assembly, caused a suspension of the sitting of the National Assembly both on Wednesday and Thursday.

“I am extremely disappointed in this and I condemn it because every day the passage of the budget is delayed, means everyday benefits are denied to the people of Guyana,” Dr Singh told the News Room.

He said the budget, which has benefitted from the input of a wide cross-section of the population, is designed with projects or initiatives that affect the daily lives of people, and its passage should not be hindered.

“People are depending on the projects and programmes because either they will create jobs or make provisions for services that benefit people,” Dr Singh stated.

“I strongly condemn what is happening and I think their obstructive behaviour shows that they have no interest in advancing the development or well-being of Guyanese,” Dr Singh added, noting that the opposition did not offer a credible or sensible critique of the budget.

On Thursday morning, 18 Parliamentarians from the opposition APNU+AFC forced the suspension of the National Assembly, demanding the removal of Minister Kwame McCoy over claims, without providing proof, that he hit Parliamentarian Tabitha Sarabo-Halley with his phone during a verbal confrontation on Wednesday afternoon. The opposition’s protest then forced the suspension of the sitting.

Minister McCoy has denied the allegation and the police were called in. The Speaker also called a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister, and members of the opposition and government side of the House and promised an expeditious investigation.

Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh

On Thursday morning, it was Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones, who called for McCoy’s removal but failed to follow the Parliamentary rules which should be invoked if the House is to remove a member.

Government Chief Whip and Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira pointed out that not only was Jones making the request under the wrong heading of “Personal Explanations” but in order to remove a member from the House, it must come by way of a motion which has to be debated and voted on.

This reasoning was upheld by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir and he undertook to set a time for the motion to be heard on Thursday, but in defiance of the Speaker, the Opposition Parliamentarians continued standing, banging various objects.

Mr. Nadir was eventually forced to suspend the sitting.

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