There is clearly an urgent need for matured political cooperation between the democratically
elected Government and the Parliamentary Opposition in the national interest of Guyana.
It is, however, becoming increasingly evident that unless the Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman, is prepared to make adjustments in conducting the business of this most vital institution of our multi-party democracy with a sense of independence and fairness in his rulings, such cooperation would remain elusive.
When he addressed a special business luncheon of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce last October 25, the Speaker would have been left in no doubt about the deep anxieties of decision-makers of the extremely important private sector for an end to the ‚Äúparliamentary dog-fighting‚ÄĚ, as expressed by Chairman of the Private Sector Commission , Ronald Webster.
Sadly, the political ‚Äúdog-fighting‚ÄĚ has been continuing with the Speaker himself now having to share blame, as a consequence of utterances in his interventions with the media and, more importantly, controversial rulings that have required recurring declarations by Chief Justice--Ian Chang.
At the core of this ‚Äúdog-fighting‚ÄĚ involving the governing and opposition parties, would also be the Speaker‚Äôs own involvement in the unprecedented decision to deny the Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, the right to speak as one of 32 duly elected parliamentarians of the 65-member Assembly where the joint opposition parties, APNU and AFC, enjoy a one-seat majority.
More recently, the Speaker has been alluding to his interest in having a presence at some consultations that involve the Government and Opposition in relation to the business of the National Assembly.
Some, if not all of Trotman‚Äôs counterparts in the Caribbean Community may think it strange for the Speaker of Parliament to become so involved. ¬†He has already placed himself in a rather unique position among the region‚Äôs Speakers of Parliament, with his seeming penchant to seek ‚Äúlegal advice‚ÄĚ on matters arising from challenges to his controversial decisions as Speaker. But there is more. ¬†
Just earlier this month a sharp disagreement between Mr Trotman and the long standing and quite respected Clerk of Parliament, Sherlock Isaacs, was exposed in the media in relation the circulation of significant amendments officially offered by Attorney General Anil Nandlall to a motion submitted by Opposition Leader David Granger for establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to probe murders and other forms of criminal violence during the period 2004 to 2010.
A major amendment proposed by the Attorney General was for the period to go beyond this seven-year period¬† and extended to the years when the People‚Äôs National Congress (today‚Äôs major partner of APNU governed Guyana as a one-party state). It was a punishing period¬†of governance based on the doctrine of ‚Äúparty paramountcy‚ÄĚ and while Granger himself was a PNC activist.
What is quite relevant was the Speaker‚Äôs unconcealed anger that the proposed amendments were circulated by the Clerk of Parliament before he had the opportunity to consider them ahead of the day‚Äôs scheduled sitting.
As it turned out, the Clerk had¬†included the¬†proposed amendments in the Speaker‚Äôs file for that sitting of the House. But apart from his claim of not seeing it earlier, Speaker Trotman was to emotionally deem the proposed amendments as ‚Äúscandalous‚ÄĚ, and used his power as Speaker to deny their inclusion in the substantive motion.
In what may long be recalled as a political joke, but really a disgusting development in the conduct of the nation‚Äôs parliamentary business, Speaker Trotman‚Äôs ‚Äúscandalous‚ÄĚ tantrum in reference to the Attorney General‚Äôs proposed amendments occurred on the day when Opposition Leader David Granger was scheduled to formally move his motion but chose to WITHDRAW it.
In the circumstances, not only is¬†it highly desirable to end the ‚Äúdog-fighting‚ÄĚ politics in Parliament, but he who has acquired the responsibility, on the basis of a one-vote majority, to preside over the business of the National Assembly should show some humility and willingness to learn from the precedents and traditions of his predecessors.
For a start, the current Clerk of Parliament, Mr Isaacs, could be a very useful guide. So too, Mr Ralph Ramkarran, who has served as Speaker of the House from 1992 to 2010.