September 25, 2016

PPP/C’s confidence in “biased” Speaker dwindling

 Passage of controversial Tax Amendment Bill…

… Teixeira roasts Scotland’s disregard for Constitution

By Devina Samaroo

Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira delivered a feral blast against House Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland for failing to uphold the Constitution of Guyana when he allowed the passage of the Tax Amendment Bill 2016 in the National Assembly, despite the lacking of a majority vote.

House Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland

House Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland

She equally expressed grave concerns over the manner in which the House Speaker continues to address Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs).

“We are extraordinarily disturbed by the Speaker’s process of decision-making and reactions to the Opposition Members, we find it disrespectful and belittling the way he speaks to our MPs, including the Leader of the Opposition (Bharrat Jagdeo),” Teixeira related.

To this end, the seasoned parliamentarian explained that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) will continue to stand up for what is right, even if it means continuously raising concerns about parliamentary procedural breaches.

“We will continue to point out though that we are here at the behest of the people whether they voted for us or not, we will continue to fight and we will continue in the parliamentary forum to defend the Constitution and we will continue to fight for what we believe is right for the Guyanese people,” she insisted.

Teixeira indicated that it would be unfounded to move a No-Confidence Motion against the House Speaker at this point, since it will not be supported by a majority vote; however she did not entirely rule out the option.
The MP added that the Dr Scotland still has an opportunity to redeem himself.

“There is still an opportunity for the Speaker…to uphold parliamentary democracy,” she stated.

The passage of the Bill
After the PPP/C rose to object the passage of the Bill without a majority vote in the House, Dr Scotland indicated that the onus was upon the parliamentary Opposition to prevent the Bill from passing.

The Speaker maintained that the PPP/C should have called for a ‘division’, which would have allowed for the votes to be counted to determine if there is majority vote.

However, the Opposition Chief Whip argued that it is the Speaker’s responsibility to ensure the Constitution is not violated, and therefore, the Speaker should have initiated the call for a ‘division’.

“Ultimately, the Speaker has to rectify it… there is a perception of a wrong that has been committed… so the Constitution was violated and (you’re saying) the Opposition is at fault. This Pontius Pilate approach is totally unacceptable… you’re telling me that the Constitution is being eroded and violated in full face and no one must do anything, the Speaker says ‘oh no I can’t do anything, it’s your fault’, (Raphael) Trotman says ‘oh we can’t do anything, it’s the Opposition’s fault’, and we’re willing to accept that,” Teixeira contended.

Moreover, the PPP/C already indicated its intention to move to the court via a constitutional motion to challenge the passage of the Tax Bill.

PPP/C parliamentarian Anil Nandlall had explained that the Bill will be challenged on the grounds that it was not passed in accordance with the law. “The Constitution lays down how bills are to be passed in the National Assembly and every bill that is passed in violation of that constitutional procedure would be unconstitutional and unlawful,” he stated.

According to the former Attorney General, had the constitutional procedures been followed, the Bill would have failed as it required a majority vote.

Had the Speaker been an elected Member of Parliament (MP), he could have used his casting vote to determine whether or not the Bill will be passed.

However, Dr Scotland was chosen from civil society and not from the List of Candidates of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC), therefore, he does not have a casting vote.
A failed bill cannot be brought back in the same session of Parliament.

Therefore, Government would have had to wait until the 12th Parliament to retable the bill.

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