THE People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was formally sworn in yesterday as the political Opposition in the National Assembly of the 11th Parliament, with former President Bharrat Jagdeo sworn in as Opposition Leader. The PPP made its debut appearance in the National Assembly since the June 10 convening of the National Assembly following the May 11 elections, where then PPP/C Government was defeated by the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition.
The party’s appearance coincides with the beginning of the debates on the 2015 Budget, which was presented before the National Assembly recently by Finance Minister Winston Jordan.
The Opposition Leader charged the new Government saying although his party comes with their own mandate; they will work along with the new Administration as long as the Administration maintains its promises to the people made during the elections campaign.
“I am very much aware of the grave responsibility placed on our shoulders, although we are in Opposition now, to ensure that our country continues to move forward,” Jagdeo said in his address to the National Assembly yesterday.
Jagdeo gave assurances that unlike the previous APNU and AFC, which served in Opposition during the 10th Parliament from 2011 to 2015, his party will not cut programmes “much to the detriment of services to people.”
He said too, “We will never, ever, in this National Assembly seek to remove benefits from people… whatever the constituencies… whether they voted PPP or APNU in the last elections.”
“We will work with the other side once they remain faithful to the promises they made to the people of the country, because I think our country deserves it to see maturity in Parliament, decorum in this Parliament, and that business is done here,” Jagdeo concluded.
Just before Jagdeo’s address, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo congratulated the new Opposition Leader and expressed a willingness to work along with his party “in cooperation [and] in the interest of our country.”
The absence of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic from the National Assembly could derail the legislative agenda of the new APNU+AFC Government (A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change).
The Government needs the Parliamentary participation of the Opposition PPP/C to advance establishment of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) and to establish the AML/CFT Authority. These two promises made in Government’s 100-day plan both require a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly for passage into law.
Opposition Leader Jagdeo told reporters yesterday “we have always supported, in principle, the establishment of the Procurement Commission,” but to this date, he said, he has not been invited to any consultations with President David Granger on setting up this body.
There is currently an elections petition before the courts on behalf of the PPP, which challenges the results of the May 11 election. Jagdeo said the country could move to another election if the petition goes in favour of his party.
He said too that the persons currently sitting in the House, as the Opposition might not be the persons taking the party into the election should it be called soon.
Even as they accepted their place as the political Opposition, the Opposition Leader said his party is still not satisfied with the results, but “we are going to fulfil our responsibilities.”
Although the PPP has taken up its place in the National Assembly, the party has refused to nominate a Deputy Speaker, which traditionally comes from the Opposition.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, has indicated that the election of the Deputy Speaker will be considered at a future sitting of the National Assembly.
By Derwayne Wills