Teixeira worries APNU+AFC becoming ‘irrelevant’
After a lengthy parliamentary recess, lawmakers met in the National Assembly on Monday with plans to debate at least seven Bills and while the business of the day moved forward, it was done in the absence of the APNU+AFC opposition.
Those opposition parliamentarians walked out of the House after a motion on their calls for a clean voters’ list and the prevention of voter impersonation was not allowed by Speaker Manzoor Nadir.
Hours after they walked out of the House, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira said she fears the opposition members are becoming irrelevant.
The Governance Minister, speaking during a press conference on Monday, underscored that opposition parliamentarians are tasked with engaging in robust debate to share positions and opinions in the interest of improving local decision-making.
She does not believe that the current opposition parliamentarians are fulfilling that duty.
To this end, Minister Teixeira questioned their decision to exit the House before the debates on new laws got underway on Monday.
The laws up for debate include the Constitutional Reform Commission Bill, the Suicide Prevention Bill and the Restorative Justice Bill.
Lawmakers, on Monday, also debated new laws that attempt to tackle drunken and hazardous driving.
“The behaviour of the opposition by walking out of parliament when these major issues are debated in the house is indicative that more and more that they are becoming irrelevant,” Minister Teixeira remarked.
But what started it all?
Early Monday morning, minutes after the lawmakers gathered at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre at Liliendaal, Georgetown, for the sitting of the National Assembly, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton sought to move a motion to facilitate the creation of a “clean voters’ list and to prevent voter impersonation.”
There have been repeated calls for this clean voters’ list from the APNU+AFC ahead of next year’s Local Government Elections though the associated concerns have been addressed by members of government, other political parties, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and ruled on by the High Court in a 2019 judgement handed down by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, S.C.
Because of the 2019 court ruling specifically, Minister Teixeira reminded reporters that Speaker Nadir would be violating the constitution to allow such a motion in the House.
This motion was not allowed by the House Speaker on the grounds that it was “not of the urgency that requires this debate”.
Subsequently, the Opposition Leader and other A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Parliamentarians exited the chamber.
Teixeira reasoned that Norton’s concerns about the voters’ list could be part of the constitutional reform process. As such, she posited that it was all the more crucial for the Opposition Leader and the opposition parliamentarians to participate in the debate for the Constitutional Reform Commission Bill.
A statement from the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, released on Monday, stated that the government refuses to discuss critical issues be it the need for a clean voters’ list or the rising cost of living.
But at Monday’s press conference, Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill stated that the government has not shied away from difficult issues. He referenced the government’s continued acknowledgment of the rising cost of living and reminded reporters that initiatives such as tax cuts and cash grants have been instituted.
Edghill too reasoned that the parliamentary opposition may not be fulfilling their mandate effectively.
“They have not come to the table with one initiative to show what they would do differently,” Edghill lamented.