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House Speaker says Guyana in constitutional crisis

Featured Guyana's Speaker of the House, the AFC's Rafael Trotman Guyana's Speaker of the House, the AFC's Rafael Trotman
Guyana's Speaker of the House, the AFC's Rafael Trotman says his country now faces a constitutional crisis. This is because the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs has refused to convene Parliament on the basis that only the government can instruct when that should be done.

"As a majority of Members have indicated their desire for the National Assembly to meet, the nation is confronted with a clear and unvarnished constitutional crisis and all stakeholders will have to work together to resolve it. As the sitting Speaker I invite all well thinking Guyanese to join me in examining all viable options and avenues to break the impasse in the interest of our beloved nation. in this regard I stand ready to entertain all reasonable suggestions and anticipate an early closure of this unfortunate development," said Trotman.

Trotman appealed for  the  public's help in resolving the situation, against the background that  the 33 opposition members  have called for the House to resume sittings as the two-month parliamentary recess ended on October 10, 2014. The House last met on July 10, 2014 when goverment moved that the House be adjourned to a date to be fixed.

The Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) together enjoy a one-seat majority in the 65-seat National Assembly and are anxious to debate and vote on a no-confidence motion filed against the President Donald Ramotar by the AFC.

President Donald Ramotar  said however, that  the House would meet again soon, but he gave no time-frame or precise date. "We have absolutely no interest in styming our parliament from meeting and parliament will meet in the very near future to deal with all the situation that will come for it," he said.

Last Wednesday the 29th of October, Trotman in a statement  "invited all well thinking Guyanese to join me in examining all viable options and avenues to break the impasse in the interest of our beloved nation."

The following is the full text of the House Speaker's statement.

Not for the first time in the forty-eight year history of the National Assembly, the Speaker and the Clerk are at odds over the power of the Speaker to convene the sittings of the National Assembly. Today, October 29, 2014, I was formally notified by the Clerk of the National Assembly that after consideration, my request for the National Assembly to be convened on Thursday, November 6, 2014, cannot be given effect to by him because he is of the view that the Speaker lacks the authority to convene sittings of National Assembly under Standing Order 8 (1) and (2). I will be writing to the Clerk to register my disagreement with his interpretation of the Standing Orders and his consequent position adopted I will also advise in writing the Leaders of the political parties in the House. 

This is a most unfortunate position arrived at, and obviously arises out of a very narrow interpretation of the Standing Orders, and of the prevailing circumstances whereby the National Assembly entered into recess and has emerged from that recess, and a majority of Members desire to meet. The National Assembly must resume sittings and cannot be bound by the whims of the Executive branch to have to await its consent before meeting. Such an interpretation flies in the face of the doctrine of separation of powers, and the constitutional right of the elected representatives to meet to perform their functions.

The roles of Speaker and Clerk of the National Assembly are regulated by the Constitution and the Standing Orders. As constitutional officers, both are expected to work symbiotically for the National Assembly to be able to properly discharge its constitutional roles and functions. It is the duty of the Clerk to convene the sitting by making all arrangements including, summoning and ensuring the attendance of Members, and the preparation and circulation of the Order Paper. The Speaker performs the role of "Presiding Officer" once the Assembly is convened; whilst the function of convening National Assembly remains the sole preserve of the Clerk. 

The effect of the Clerk's decision not to convene the sitting has the effect of crippling the ability of the Members of Parliament to meet. This in itself brings the Constitution into derision and disregard and cannot be what the framers of our Constitution intended.

As a majority of Members have indicated their desire for the National Assembly to meet, the nation is confronted with a clear and unvarnished constitutional crisis and all stakeholders will have to work together to resolve it. As the sitting Speaker I invite all well thinking Guyanese to join me in examining all viable options and avenues to break the impasse in the interest of our beloved nation. in this regard I stand ready to entertain all reasonable suggestions and anticipate an early closure of this unfortunate development.

 

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