8 APNU+AFC MPs want High Court to nullify recommended suspension for grabbing Speaker’s Mace
Eight A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Parliamentarians have filed legal action over the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges recommendation for them to be suspended for partaking in grabbing the Speaker’s Mace and disrupting the National Assembly in December last.
The Fixed Date Application (FDA) was filed by Attorneys-at-Law Roysdale Forde, SC, Khemraj Ramjattan, and Selwyn Pieters on behalf of Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, Vinceroy Jordan, Annette Ferguson, Maureen Philadelphia, Ganesh Mahipaul, Sherod Duncan, Christopher Jones, Natasha Singh-Lewis.
The eight Parliamentarians are seeking several declarations and orders, and chief among them is that the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges report is unconstitutional, null, void, and of no legal effect.
In fact, they are contending that it is a breach of the principles of natural justice, as their rights, as guaranteed under Article 144 (8) of the Constitution, have been infringed.
Moreover, the Parliamentarians advanced that they were not afforded a fair hearing and given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them.
They further contended that the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges members are biased and not impartial and therefore not an independent and impartial tribunal within Article 144 (8) of the Constitution.
Against this background, the eight APNU+AFC members are seeking an order suspending any decision, resolution, or other determination made by the House to suspend them.
They are further asking for an order allowing them to perform their duties until they have been afforded the right to be heard before the Parliamentary Sessional Select Committee of Privileges, pending the hearing and determination of their FDA.
During the passage of the Natural Resource Fund Bill on December 29, Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) blew whistles and chanted loudly, “no thieving bill must pass,” as they gathered in the pit of the dome of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), where National Assembly sittings are being held owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bill was eventually passed but not without a confrontation as one of the MPs snatched the Speaker’s Mace, damaging it in the process.
A few days later, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira moved a motion to send the eight Opposition parliamentarians to the Committee.
The Committee was tasked with determining the sanctions, if any, that would be applied to the parliamentarians accused of misbehaving in the National Assembly and submit a report on February 24.
According to the court document seen by MTV News Update, the eight members were written to my Clerk of the Committee, Dellon Adam, requesting them to “show cause” as to why sanctions should not be meted out to them.
The MPs said that they were unaware that their behaviour on the day in question falls into the category of gross disorderly conduct and, as such, requested the Committee to point them to the Standing Orders, which they supposedly violated.
“The Applicants never received a response to their Letters of request for clarification and further information from Clerk of the National Assembly, the Clerk of the Committee, and/or from the Speaker,” the eight MPs said in the court document.
On April 13, Minister Teixeira moved a Motion to extend the deadline for the submission of the report of the Committee from February 24 to June 15.
The Committee on June 3 recommended that Sarabo-Halley, Jordan, Ferguson, and Philadelphia be suspended for six consecutive sittings of the National Assembly, while Mahipaul, Duncan, Jones, and Singh-Lewis be suspended for four consecutive sittings of the National Assembly.
The Committee noted that the recommendations were based on video recordings, statements by staff of the Parliament Office and the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), eyewitness accounts by other Members of the House, media reporters, and the public, both locally and internationally.
In light of this, the MPs complained that the report of the Committee of Privileges would be a published record that would forever inevitably affect their character and reputation.
They argued that any suspension would further hinder them from representing the people who elected them to sit in the National Assembly and would also prevent Mahipaul from functioning as a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
“That any suspension will deprive the Applicants of their full salaries and of the opportunity to be Representatives of the National Assembly and people of Guyana at National, Regional and International forums,” the court document said.