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Parliamentarians call off their meeting to decide if Minister. Rohee will speak or not – 21st Jan 2013

shot0007The arrival of Dr. Vindhya Persaud at Parliament Buildings was a clear sign that the meeting of the Privileges Committee would go on, despite the cry of the Attorney General to have it aborted. But the meeting, while called, was soon over.

Over the weekend, Minister Rohee resigned as a Member of the Committee that would decide his fate in the National Assembly.  It was a surprise in the first place that he decided to agree to sit on the Committee.

The Committee of Selection, which appoints members to all Parliamentary committees, named Dr. Persaud, a back-bencher on the Government’s side of the  House, a mere 30 minutes before the so-called Rohee Committee met for the first time.

The Privileges Committee was set up by Speaker,Raphael Trotman, given persistent calls by the opposition for  Rohee to step down as Minister and be barred from speaking in the House.

At the meeting today, Committee members engaged in a lot of back and forth about how to proceed, given pending court battles on Rohee. As a result, Trotman was left with no other option than to call off the meeting to await clarifications.

Both the opposition alliance APNU and the Government both agreed that there was no basis for a meeting at this time since the matter is before the courts.

The Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang, recently ruled that the National Assembly has no right to prevent any member from speaking in the House. However, Chang stayed clear of ruling on whether Rohee could speak as Minister of the Government.

The Speaker has said that he plans to appeal the ruling and for the Court of Appeal to decide once and for all, whether the courts can meddle in the business of the National Assembly and in fact dictate what should happen in Parliament Chambers. The Attorney General plans to file a counter-appeal.

The Speaker had ruled that since the Committee of Privileges was going to meet and decide on the matter, Rohee would not be allowed to introduce new laws in the House.

That ruling did not mean that Rohee could not speak on any matter if he wished to. In fact, Rohee retained his right to vote in the House and did so on several occasions after the ruling, by Trotman, so his rights as a Parliamentarian were not taken away.

The Committee of Privileges has been set up to decide what, if any, are the powers of the National Assembly, to sanction a Member of Parliament, who is a Minister appointed by the President, for failing to resign following the adoption of a Motion of No-Confidence in him.

If the Committee does conclude that the National Assembly can sanction a member, it would then have to determine what sanctions, including, preventing the Minister from speaking, are available to the House.

The Opposition Leader is arguing that while the constitution allows any member of the Assembly to introduce laws or propose motions for debate, the constitution also provides for the National Assembly to regulate its own procedure and may make rules for that purpose.

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