…Parliament Office says “mistake” made when calculating suspensionThe legacy of the 11th Parliament is one of executive interference in the National Assembly’s operations and undermining of the standing orders. This is according to the parliamentary Opposition, which in a strongly worded statement on Saturday revealed that Opposition parliamentarian Juan Edghill’s exile from the Chambers has been extended due to a “mistake” from the Parliament Office.According to the party, the Government motion specifically calling for Opposition Parliamentarian Juan Edghill to be suspended from the National Assembly was followed by the party being gagged from questions on the Budget Estimates before it was passed. By such measures, the party noted they were prevented from scrutinising six MinistriesDespite the motion moved by Minister Amna Ally on December 12, 2017, which specifically called for the suspension of Edghill from the business of the National Assembly until December 15, 2017, Edghill will not be able to return to the House for the January 10 sitting.“The parliamentary Opposition was shocked to learn by way of letter dated January 4, 2018, that the Member, Bishop Edghill, cannot attend the sitting on January 10, 2018, due to a mistake made by the Parliament Office in calculating when the suspension commenced,” the party stated.“The Speaker appears to have assumed the responsibility, not provided for, to interpret a member’s motion. Minister Ally’s motion included a date of when the suspension would come to an end, December 15, 2017. Therefore, there is no doubt or ambiguity as to the commencement of the suspension at the sitting on December 12, 2017.”PPP/C MP, Bishop Juan EdghillThe party noted that had Minister Ally’s motion not included the date of the conclusion of the suspension, the need for the Speaker’s intervention to interpret the motion as to when the suspension began and ended may have been more understandable.“However, one must remember that on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, prior to the commencement of the adjourned 79th sitting and hence prior to the motion of Minister Ally being tabled and passed, Bishop Edghill was prevented from coming to the Parliament Building and arrested at the traffic lights approximately 100 feet from the gates of the Parliament compound. Therefore, the suspension was in effect on Tuesday, December 12.”Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton ScotlandThe Parliament Office under the hand of the Clerk of the National Assembly wrote Edghill on December 12, 2017, suspending him for four sittings from the 79th sitting; the very sitting which Minister Ally brought the motion of suspension. Therefore, the letter was in keeping with the motion brought by the Minister. But according to the People’s Progressive Party, interestingly, the letter of January 4, 2018, states a mistake was made and the suspension commenced on the 80th sitting, therefore the fourth sitting would include January 10, 2018.”According to the party, this “arbitrary interference in the interpretation of a member’s motion in keeping with SO 47 (3) (a) is totally unacceptable and smells of crass vindictiveness.” It noted the unprecedented nature of the case and recalled that this level of interference didn’t occur despite unruly behaviour in the 10th Parliament by the then combined Opposition.The party pointed out that the combined A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change Opposition parties forced the suspension of sittings on at least 10 occasions. In addition, they prevented then Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee from speaking for nine months until the then Chief Justice ruled that this action was unconstitutional.“This is just another example in what is fast becoming a voluminous dossier on the threats to parliamentary democracy in Guyana. However, we, in the parliamentary Opposition, will not be daunted by these vindictive and un-parliamentary measures. We are forced to note ironically, that, we as Members of Parliament have greater freedom to speak and to represent the people of Guyana, so far, outside of the hallowed halls of the National Assembly than inside those walls. This in itself is an indictment of the 11th Parliament.”Edghill was suspended by Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, after his attempts to extend scrutiny over the Ministry of the Presidency were shut down. After not complying with the Speaker’s orders, Police were called into the House in an unprecedented action, causing a scuffle in the Chambers.