Private sector group views police action in Guyana Parliament as threat to democracy

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police clash with Parliamentarians in Guyana's National Assembly on Monday, December 11, 2017.

Following upheaval in Guyana’s Parliament Chamber on Monday stemming from a Member of Parliament (MP) refusing to vacate his seat after being ordered to do so by the Speaker of the National Assembly, and the subsequent intervention by police officers to remove him, the Private Sector Commission of Guyana (PSC) is now speaking out.

The police action resulted in a major confrontation with Opposition MPs during which several of the elected representatives, including women, said they were physically assaulted.

The lawmakers were debating the estimates for the South American country’s 2018 National Budget on Monday when the incident occurred.

The PSC’s statement follows;

The Private Sector Commission notes with great concern the events which took place on Monday, December 11, in the National Assembly.  The objective of Parliament is to allow deliberation on questions of interest to the nation, and to arrive at the will of the Assembly in a civilized manner. The Private Sector Commission firmly believes that Parliament is the forum where its members must be free to challenge each other, including the Honorable Speaker, as they pursue the relentless representation of the people of Guyana.

The procedures to be followed by Members of Parliament in the conduct of their deliberations are clearly set out and the methods for dealing with dissenters are also established. Members enjoy certain privileges when seated in Parliament and, if these are abused, are subject to disciplinary action as determined by the Speaker in consultation with the Privileges Committee. The involvement of law enforcement, apart from being an unacceptable overreaction, is an unfortunate occurrence. It does not augur well for our democracy. Any such display of lawlessness should never reoccur.

The damage has already been done but the Commission expects that all involved will critically review the events of Monday. It is a time to analyze and reflect on the negative impact these have had on our nation’s image internationally.

The Private Sector Commission believes that, in the interest of the nation, Parliamentarians have a right to seek clarification and a full understanding of the Budget as approved by Parliament. The debate should not be hijacked. The Budget affects the life of each and every Guyanese and discussions around it are necessary.

There should be patience and understanding on both sides of the floor.