GEORGETOWN, December 30, 2021 - Guyana’s APNU+AFC Opposition says the “Oil Money” Natural Resource Fund Bill No. 20 of 2021 could not have been legally passed in the National Assembly since the Mace was not in place when the Speaker Manzoor Nadir called for a vote on the controversial legislation during Wednesday’s evening’s sitting.
The Mace which is the most significant symbol in the National Assembly, represents the authority of Parliament and must be present throughout the sitting of the Assembly when a law is to be passed.
When he enters or leaves the Chamber, the Speaker is preceded by the Sergeant-at-Arms bearing the Mace on his right shoulder. When the National Assembly is in session, the Mace is placed on the Clerk’s table, with its head pointing towards the Government side of the Chamber.
However, on Wednesday evening, the Mace was not in the House when the controversial "Oil Money Bill" was put to the vote. It was allegedly grabbed from its position by Opposition Member of Parliament Annette Ferguson but ended up outside of the Parliamentary Chambers in the hands of a parliamentary staffer.
During a press conference on Thursday, Speaker Nadir admitted that the official Mace was not in its place when the Bill was put to a vote. He said it was a replica that was used for the passage of the Bill.
In a statement Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon said the miniature replica Mace, made for exhibition purposes and the National Youth Parliament, cannot be used to conduct the business of the National Assembly.
“The Speaker’s statement that Guyana has two Maces is appalling and simply untrue. The replica referred to by the Speaker is a miniature Mace which was made for the hosting of Guyana’s National Youth Parliament and holds no authority in the sitting of the National Assembly. Further, there is no rule that provides for the use of a replica Mace in the National Assembly as being touted by the Speaker.
“The speaker cannot simply decide to pick up something and replace the official Mace of the National Assembly when the rules clearly state that if the Mace is not in the House absolutely no business can be done, again I say there is no provision for use of a replica or substitute Mace,” Harmon said.
The Opposition Leader denied that there was any attempt by the Speaker to meet with the two Chief Whips after the initial brief suspension of the sitting.
Harmon noted that “the Speaker would want the nation to believe that he followed the parliamentary process in his handling of the proceedings since he indicated to the media that he consulted with the Chief Whip but got no response.
“Let it be known that no attempt was made after the suspension of the sitting to have a dialogue with the Chief Whip on the opposition side. In fact, the Speaker went and met with members on the Government side and crafted their plan to come back into the House and force the passage of the bill,” Harmon declared.
The APNU+AFC Opposition maintains that the controversial Bill was not legally passed as the Standing Orders state that a Member of the Assembly must be in his or her seat to vote in the National Assembly.
“Most of the Government MPs were out of their seats, especially the Prime Minister who was on his feet waving. It is therefore clear that there was no legal vote. Clearly all of the aforementioned circumstances rendered the passage of the Bill null and void,” the Coalition said.
“Yet, the PPP in its quest to denude the NRF Act of 2019 so that it can pillage and plunder the Natural Resource Fund, went ahead and purported to have repealed the 2019 Act. The Act was not repealed. What is alarming, is that the Speaker who should know better was complicit in this gross violation of the Standing Orders, Principles and Conventions associated with the good conduct of Parliamentary affairs. The APNU+AFC wishes to inform the Guyanese people that the prevailing law continues to be the Natural Resource Fund Act of 2019 because no legal vote was taken,” the Opposition said.
The People’s National Congress Reform-led APNU+AFC as well as a number of civil society organisations demanded that the new Bill be opened up to public participation on the amendments.
They objected to the reduction of an oversight committee from 22 to nine and the inclusion of a Board to manage the Natural Resources Fund. That Board would be appointed by the President.
Also facing strong objection was the formula used to draw down oil revenues for deposit into the Consolidated Fund.