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Opposition uses its majority to push consideration of the Budget estimates to Monday – 10th Apr 2013

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In a Business Sub-Committee of the Parliament, the opposition outnumbered the Government (Five-Four) and had its way.

Once the matter was taken back to the full House, the opposition again outnumbered the Government and so stopping the Government in its tracks.

The deciding vote belonged to this woman – Renita Williams, from Moruca in Region One.

She was sworn in as a new Member of Parliament with the Opposition Coalition APNU, following the resignation of Mr. Richard Allen.

Mr. Allen’s absence from the House in the wee hours of today resulted in a protracted process as the Government looked to have its way.

In a bold move, the Government called out Dr. Vindhya Persaud out of mourning her father’s death, so that it could have a solid position to force the consideration of the estimates to begin from today.

With 33 seats, the opposition has a one-seat majority in the House.

With Dr. Persaud in the Assembly, it evened up the numbers on the Government and opposition sides given that the APNU had one member less, given the hospitalisation of Mr. Richard Allen.

With even votes on both sides, as Parliamentary rules go, the motion was not carried and was returned to the Business Sub Committee.
But with Ms. Williams’ swearing in, replacing Allen, the opposition was at full strength in the House later in the afternoon and pushed consideration of the estimates to Monday.

The intention of the Government seemed clear – if consideration of the estimates began today, it would rob the opposition of its power to deny support for certain items. The opposition is required to give a 24-hour notice of its intention to cut spending.

The Government was especially jittery about the estimates of the Home Affairs Ministry and the Office of the President, which were cut down in last year’s budget.

And so, the Government’s plan, if it had its way, was to have those estimates for Home Affairs and the Office of the President, considered first and force it through to approval with the opposition being powerless to cut.

But that plan can no longer go through and so the Government is left to do as the opposition says – that is, wait on Monday and hold its breath for the budget cuts.

The Finance Minister Dr. AShni Singh has expressed disappointment with the position taken by the opposition and hopes that the days ahead would be used by them to rethink their plan and not cut the budget.

Today’s session of the House was not without the usual drama. After Ms. Williams took the Oath of Office, various members of the House were invited to offer congratulations, but the Government’s side of the House was agitated over the fact that opposition Parliamentarians were going on too long and tempers flared.

And the Government was still in heat when another issue arose. Parliamentarian, Vanessa Kissoon stood up to lament the situation of nurses in Linden, who have not been paid their gratuity.

The Health Minister, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran was not happy that the matter had to reach the National Assembly and he went overboard in venting his vexation.

That quarrel about the Linden nurses not being paid spilled over to the streets when Vanessa Kissoon tried to lead nurses in a protest outside Parliament Buildings. The Police were not letting the nurses through the barricades with their placards and again, tempers flared.

The nurses travelled to Georgetown to say that they keep getting promises about being paid their gratuity, but the day has not yet reached.

The nurses ended up using another route to get in front of Parliament buildings.

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