Parliament of the co-operative Republic of Guyana


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Copyright ©2014 Parliament of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.


Hits: 7982 | Published Date: 22 Nov, 2012
| Speech delivered at: 31st Sitting- Tenth Parliament
| Speech Delivered by : Hon. Gail Teixeira, MP

Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much, I will try to come to the points you have just raised. Mr. Speaker, in 2009, April 7th, you would remember, as you were a Member of this House that we had a big debate on Clico and by joint collaboration on both sides of the House we amended that Bill and sent it to Select Committee. Following that, Mr. Corbin followed up with a follow-up motion, very similar to the first one. The Speaker ruled on this matter because by then the Clico issue was taken to court and they had a judicial manager and there was a number of people who were taking Clico to court.
April 7th, 2009, the Speaker, for example, ruled on the fact that the motion, in terms of the same question rule, was in order. However, in terms of sub-judice, it was not in order. He quoted it in his notes which were shared in the House and which subsequently became a withdrawal of Notice Paper 383, April 14th, 2009. However, what the Speaker writes in his response to the Clerk and subsequently to Mr. Corbin, he says the following and I will just repeat that Standing Order No. 26 (g):
“In order that a motion be admissible, it shall satisfy the following conditions, namely:-
(g) It shall not relate to any matter which is under adjudication by a court of law;”
While the issue of sub-judice, I know is something that Mr. Ramjattan feels strongly about, we have debated this issue before in 2009 and in Committee and so forth. However, Parliaments as distinct from the opinions from people and so forth, have very clearly ruled on this matter. The Australian House of Representatives page 495, says:
“As a general rule matters before civil courts should not be referred to from the time they are set down for trial or otherwise brought before the court and similarly, the restrictions should again be applied from the time an appeal is logged until the appeal is decided.”
The Canadian House of Commons Procedure and Practice also refers to the above and states on page 534 that:
“During debates restrictions are placed on the freedom of Members of Parliament to make reference to matters awaiting judicial decisions in the interest of justice and fair play. Such matters are also barred from being the subject of motions or questions in the House.”
Erskine Mayes’, Parliamentary Practice, I believe it is the 22nd Edition, page 333, says:
“The House is resolved that no matter awaiting or under adjudication by the court of law should brought before it by motion or otherwise.”
On these grounds, the then Speaker refused Mr. Corbin’s motion based on Standing Order No. 26 (g). Mr. Speaker, the issue is not about influence or not influence. It is a basic principle in Parliaments to allow for the separation of matters between the legislator and the judiciary.
The issue also in relation to Standing Order No. 47 (10) which is being used both in the motion and by the Hon. Member Mr. Williams, Standing Order No. 47 (10) says:
“Nothing in this Standing Order...
Not the word “Orders”, but the word “Order”. Therefore, it can only be referring to Standing Order No. 47 and Standing Order No. 47 solely deals with order in the House, as what happened on November 28th. The Speaker could have named anybody and order that the Prime Minister or a Minister raise on a Suspension motion. However, this is not an issue of order in the House in relations to this motion and what Mr. Granger is attempting to do.
Minister Rohee has not done anything in the House; he has done nothing. In other words when all the noise was being made, it was not Mr. Rohee who was making the noise. Also, Mr. Speaker, I hear a history being used, about other Members and this comes to your question Sir, can the House restrict or not. Standing Order No. 47 (10) when it is talking about the Resolution, it is talking about it in the context of Standing Order No. 47, where a motion can be brought against a Member who is behaving disorderly in the House at that time. It is not a generic Standing Order No. 10 to allow for you to use it willy nilly on any Resolution of the House. If you want to look for that find it where it is provided in the other Standing Orders. Do your homework. But it is not under Standing Order No. 47 (10).
Mr. Speaker, your question about due process; your question about does the House has the power to restrict a Member. Again we go back to Parliamentary custom, practice, conventions, Standing Orders and the Constitution; those are the tools that we have at our disposal. I have seen in the motion a reference to the United Kingdom, the ruling you brought the last House, in which you got legal opinion, made it clear that you did not have the power to remove a Minister nor a Member of Parliament.
We have a recall legislation that has been used once in this House by Mr. Corbin, the Leader of the Opposition against Mr. McAllister. It has never been used and it is in the Constitution of Guyana that the head of the list – the representer of the list - is who comes to the Speaker and says the party on whose list that person is has lost confidence. So this approach to the Constitution is totally flawed because the Constitution makes it clear:
“(1) In terms of a Minister it is the President; in terms of a Member of Parliament it is the representative of the list.”
It gives no power to the Parliament to remove a Member as a Minister and/or a Member of Parliament... [Interruption]
Mrs. Backer: On a Point of Order.
Ms. Teixeira: I listened to Mr. Williams you know – patiently.
Mr. Speaker: I recognise the Point of Order. What is the Point of Order please?
Mrs. Backer: The Point of Order is that nowhere in the proposed motion is there any mention about us removing... she is misleading the House. Nothing before us... [Interruption]... It is irrelevant. There is no...[Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: I understand the basis of your Point of Order. I think that we have to give some latitude in the arguments and whilst the motion may not speak specifically to removal or otherwise...
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, with due respect to you.
Mr. Speaker: Go ahead.
Ms. Teixeira: You asked the question to us who wished to speak that does the House have the power to restrict a person from speaking. Mr. Speaker, the first page of this motion refers to the previous Resolution to do with the first Resolution. And the last WHEREAS clause talks about the convention in the House of Commons that a Minister loses a no-confidence motion resigns as a Minister. First of all in relations to your question, the House has no jurisdiction. In relations to any comparison with the United Kingdom (UK), it has no jurisdiction because the UK Parliament has no Constitution above it and they have an electoral system that is completely different. They do not have recall legislation so the two issues are not comparable. You are talking about chalk and cheese.
The next issue is that how would this House treat with a Minister or Member of Parliament who one wishes to discipline? It reserves to the House the issue of discipline under Standing Order No. 47. Standing Order No. 47 only deals with disorder and discipline in the House, there is no other part of the Standing Orders that deals with if a motion passes that wants to tell a Minister jump over on the other side that he should do it. There is no such power. The House give no such power to a motion brought by anybody. However, on the issue of can the House rule; yes on this issue – it can on this issue.
When Mr. Basir got up in 1991 March and walked to the mace and picked up the mace and moved the mace, then having being reprimanded by the Speaker, he then threw a glass, which did not hit the Speaker by the way, but...       [Ms. Ally: It hit the Speaker.]         Could I finish? I mean you are getting what you want, can you not let people speak? What is wrong with you guys?
Mr. Speaker: I am very interested in this historical record.
Ms. Teixeira: So Mr. Speaker...
Mr. Speaker: What happened when Mr. Basir did that? That is what I am interested in knowing.
Ms. Teixeira: What happened is that a Minutes somewhere in the Hansard, I think the Speaker was Mr. Marcellus Feilden Singh and the then Minister of Regional Development, Minister Jeffery Thomas, ably supported and seconded by Ms. Amna Ally, a young MP in those days, supported the motion that did not expel Basir, in fact the records do not show that Basir was expelled. It brings a motion calling for Mr. Basir... [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Greenidge did you rise?
Mr. Greenidge: Just a Point of Order. I believe I heard the speaker said that she is quoting from the Hansard of 1991.
Mr. Speaker: What is the Point of Order?
Mr. Greenidge: No such document was found by this Clerk in this House, so I would like her to provide that document. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members... Member that would not qualify as a Point of Order, but it is a matter that clarification will be sought on later on. [Interruption]
[Speaker in aside with Clerk]
Mr. Speaker: Thank you very much Mr. Isaacs. Mr. Isaacs advises me that these are the Minutes and not the Hansard and I would like to get a copy of that please, if possible.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, it is regrettable in this House that when we discuss the issue of Hansard that Mr. Greenidge paid no attention to some of us who spoke; who read out, based on information from this House, of what Minutes and Hansard were available. However, this is Minutes, Sir...
Mr. Speaker: With respect, we are having a debate on a very serious matter. The issue of missing or present Hansard with respect will not be entertained at this sitting. I myself need to see what is being quoted from, because I have not seen it, but certainly that issue is not the subject of our discussion this afternoon and I will not be entertaining it.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, if I would be allowed, this is not my handwriting, this is from the Parliament. This is the:
The Speaker at the time was Mr. Sase Narain.
At this point, the proposal for the expulsion of Cde. Isahak Basir:
“The Minister of Regional Development moved the following motion and amendment thereto:-”
The Minutes regrettably do not give you an idea of all the things that happened, but it says the following that the motion reads as follows:
“WHEREAS on the 14th January, 1991, Cde. Isahak Basir, M.P., without lawful permission removed the mace from its accustomed place on the table of the National Assembly;
AND WHEREAS on the date aforesaid, Cde. Isahak Basir assaulted the Speaker by violently throwing his drinking glass at him;
WHEREAS such misconduct on the part Cde. Isahak Basir, is an insult to the Speaker and the dignity of the Parliament;
AND WHEREAS the assault on the Speaker constitutes a crime punishable by law;
AND WHEREAS Cde. Isahak Basir’s behaviour on the date aforesaid constitutes grossly disorderly conduct;
That Cde. Isahak Basir, M.P., be expelled from the service of the Assembly.”
This was moved as I said, by Minister Jeffery Thomas and the persons who spoke on the motion were the Prime Minister –Mr. Green and Cde. Amna Ally. I am just reading from the Minutes. In those days they did not say Honourable, they used Comrade.
The motion was put and carried and amended. It does not elucidate in any way after that what was happening. In fact, it seems to be that after that happened, the meeting closed. In fact, the Parliament met from what was around 2 O’clock to 4 O’clock and that was the only item on the agenda.
Mr. Speaker, if you doubt this I am sure to give you this, you can have a copy, but I got this from the House. I did not make this up.
The issue we are talking about – does the House have the right to restrict? Under privilege – on the matter of privilege the issue is that it has to be things that would bring down the repute of the House and the image and dignity of the House. It specifically allows, in terms of all Parliamentary practice, from the gate – the precincts of the Parliament Buildings, from gate to gate.
The Resolution is not about disorderly behaviour that Mr. Granger is bringing here. Mr. Granger is not bringing a disorderly behaviour motion on his own right, that during November 8th Sitting, Minister Rohee behaved bad; thump the table, did not listen to the Speaker. He has a right to do that then Sir. In fact, you could have called on anyone of us to move that motion in your defence. But there is nothing that you can bring that Minister Rohee has done in this House. Therefore, the right to suspend a Member; the right to prevent a Member from speaking and maybe you would remember – I will just divert a minute. Mr. Speaker, you may remember when the Hon. M.P. Aubrey Norton was in this House, there was a very heated debate one night. The Speaker then, Mr. Ramkarran warned him and they ended up having an altercation between the Speaker and Mr. Aubrey Norton. The Speaker warned again and the altercation continued. This was a one on one between the two gentlemen and the Speaker said, at that point, I will not recognise you.
Mr. Norton was not recognised for several Sittings - now recognised is different from not speaking. And so Mr. Norton was found to have been disrespectful to the Speaker. Minister Rohee has not been disrespectful to anybody in this House, least of all or most of all the Speaker of this House... [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Was Mr. Norton permitted to attend Committee meetings and to participate in those meetings?
Ms. Teixeira: Yes Sir. Mr. Norton attended the Ministry of Foreign Services Parliamentary Sectoral Committee, when he was available of course, because he was not a frequent attendant in the first place. The second thing was that Mr. Norton came to the House and he never put up his hand to test what the Speaker said about not recognising him, but he was never suspended.
So Mr. Speaker, when we talk about gagging and preventing from speaking, in the House if a Member is disorderly, the rule of the Parliament is that the Speaker recognises your hand and you wait for the Speaker to recognise you. That is the level of where the order of the House is kept. If the Speaker feels that any Member has been out of order, he can do several things: Not recognising - which means he can put up his hand a hundred times and the Speaker would look a different way. Because always in Parliaments and you can go back to the UK’s Parliament, it is who the Speaker sees first and there is nothing to require the Speaker to see or not see a person. Therefore, you cannot prevent a person from speaking unless they have done something in the House or in the precincts of the House.
There was an issue in 2003, which Dr. Ramsammy would remember, in which an issue was brought in this House to do with being unable to pass the gates of this House because some Members of Parliament were blocking the gates. This was an issue that was raised and called for this reaction because a Member of Parliament should not be prevented from entering the precinct of the House. I believe firmly, that is in response to your question, the first question, that the ability of the House to prevent or restrict a Member from speaking does not exist unless a case is being made out for disorderly behaviour, or behaviour that would bring this House into dispute.
The second issue, Sir, about due process: Under Speakers Fielden Singh and Sase Narain, the issues to expel the Member took place on the floor and part of it was because the Standing Orders were different, the Constitution was different and the Government was different. It was a party that got into Government by rigged elections. Chalk and cheese are not comparative. Due process, in the many changes of the Standing Orders, has ensured that people have the right to be heard and that is enshrined in our Constitution; it is enshrined in the way in which we operate. We cannot ask this House to set a standard that is less than the standard set in the Constitution that everyone has the right to due process. If a person is accused of murder, that person has the right of due process. How can this legislature be less than the standards that are set in the judiciary? How could that be possible? How could that be possible for someone to be charged with a crime and not have the right to answer? In fact the Sexual Amendment Bill, which is before the House, which we are not allowed to get to, is an issue that is dealing with this issue of the right to be heard and due process.
Mr. Speaker, I am calling on you. This motion is inadmissible and when we come – because they will vote and ramrod it through - … Then we will see in the argumentation that will come what new rabbits the Opposition Members are going to pull out of the hat to justify this motion, because up to last night on Nation Watch they were pulling out new rabbits out of the hat to justify this motion that it is unconstitutional, undemocratic and a violation of our human rights. Thank you very much. [Applause]

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