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Moonilal on reform legislation: PNM missed boat to raise questions

Published: 
Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) missed two opportunities at Monday’s parliamentary session launch to query the holding of Parliament sessions this month and also to ask questions about the constitutional reform legislation to be debated next week, says People’s Partnership (PP) House Leader Roodal Moonilal.

“(PNM leader) Dr (Keith) Rowley was apparently asleep when those two opportunities—both prescribed in the Standing Orders—arose in Monday’s parliamentary session so the Opposition therefore missed the boat on both issues,” Moonilal said. He was commenting after PNM PRO Faris Al-Rawi said the Government had breached the Parliament’s new Standing Orders to hold sessions now to debate the legislation. One session will be held next Monday. 

Al-Rawi said the Standing Orders provided for a fixed recess unless Parliament has exceptional, urgent business and the Speaker should have given certification of the exceptional business to be considered but failed to do so. On what the PNM might do and whether it might legally challenge the move, Al-Rawi said yesterday it would examine all options, since there was no way the Parliament could debate something in breach of the Standing Orders. He said the PNM had given notice by raising it in the public domain.

PNM whip Marlene McDonald also said she did not know as yet if the PNM would challenge the situation but might know after its meetings today. Parliament officials said no Opposition MP objected in Monday’s session when the adjournment to next Monday was announced. Moonilal added: “If Mr Al-Rawi believes the session is illegal and contrary to the Standing Orders then I wouldn’t encourage them to attend the session.

“But Dr Rowley has clearly not read the Standing Orders because if he did he would understand the Standing Orders provides for certain privileges. “But no Standing Orders can provide for permanent closing down of the Parliament. “While Section 11, 13 and 14 provide for two months’ vacation, it also provides for Parliament to determine if a sitting will be held during that period and if it’s urgent, the Government can, via vote, hold any amount of sessions. 

“So Dr Rowley on Monday should have debated the motion for the adjournment to Monday.” Speaker Wade Mark on Monday announced the introduction of the new Standing Orders and particularly reminded MPs of a handful of stipulations, including Standing Order 24, which also allows for one member from each party in opposition to ask a brief question for elucidation on statements by ministers.