PPP says not AWOL from parliamentary committees

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Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira

WHILE admitting that its members were out of Georgetown for Wednesday’s Parliamentary Management Committee (PMC) meeting, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) says its members have been attending meetings of the committee.

FAILING
The Opposition party has been criticised for reportedly failing to attend meetings of the PMC and also for failing to meaningfully participate in the work of other standing committees. On Wednesday, for the fourth time, a meeting of the PMC had to be put off due to lack of a quorum as a result of the PPP’s absence. Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who is also Leader of the House, deemed the scenario ‘unfortunate’.

‘INACCURATE’
However, at a press briefing yesterday, Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira said that the Prime Minister may have been uninformed as his statement on the issue was “inaccurate”. She said that the PMC meeting on March 16th was called off and she was advised by the Clerk of the National Assembly that this occurred since members from both sides were experiencing difficulties attending the meeting due to Local Government Elections and overseas travel.

Teixeira noted that for the meeting on Wednesday, the Opposition members said that they were unavailable since most of them were out of town. She further stated that the PMC meeting on Wednesday was postponed because members from both sides were unavailable. But this was countered by the Prime Minister who said he and other government MPs were present at the meeting. Teixeira said that Opposition members have been attending meetings for other committees, including the Committee of Selections, Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC), and parliamentary sectoral committees on Social Services, Natural Resources and Foreign Services. She said the Opposition chairs the PAC, parliamentary sectoral committee on Natural Resources and Foreign Services and she noted that members of those committees are meeting.

Teixeira said that the Opposition had pointed out on the floor of the House in the last sitting their problems with the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Economic Services, with reference to decisions made on the Wales Sugar Estate.

The party, she noted, objects to the continued presence of government ministers on oversight committees, including the PAC and four sectoral committees. She said the PPP also is concerned about the absence of a special select committee in the 11th Parliament, as regards bills and other forms of legislation. She said too that the Constitutional Reform Committee, which is headed by the Minister of Legal Affairs, Attorney General Basil Williams and the sectoral committee with oversight on the security sector, chaired by Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan, have been appointed but no meetings have been called.

The Guyana Chronicle was told that the PMC, unlike the other Parliamentary committees, has parity in representation from both the government and opposition. The committee is chaired by the Speaker of the National Assembly. The Prime Minister proffered that the PPP should be most concerned about its own cavalier attitude towards Parliament, which it has so far shown a significant amount of disrespect for – first by boycotting, then by refusing to nominate a Deputy Speaker, then by staging four walkouts within five months. He added that he had explained the six-week adjournment to Teixeira after the March 10 sitting, as he felt that the Opposition would have had notice of the capacity-building events through the PMC and the Guyana Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, of which it is an active member.