Shuman’s election as Deputy Speaker triggers APNU+AFC walkout

Former PPP/C Minister Manzoor Nadir was yesterday declared Speaker of the 12th Parliament but it was the election of Lenox Shuman as his Deputy which triggered consternation in the opposition ranks leading APNU+AFC to boycott the proceedings that followed.

Eight months after the 11th Parliament was dissolved, the 12th Parliament was declared open at the Arthur Chung Conference  Centre at Liliendaal instead of the Public Buildings due to COVID-19 restrictions. The formalities were then conducted by parliamentary clerk Sherlock Isaacs

Prime Minister Mark Phillips then rose to nominate Nadir, who was once the leader of The United Force (TUF), as Speaker and this was seconded by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira. There were no other nominations for the post of Speaker and Nadir was therefore declared elected Speaker in the House where the PPP/C has the majority with 33 seats. Nadir is the first Speaker in the post-independence period not to be a lawyer. 

Nadir’s first order of business was to oversee the election of a deputy speaker and APNU+AFC’s parliamentarian Cathy Hughes nominated her colleague and former Speaker, Raphael Trotman for that position. However, in a surprise move,  Prime Minister Phillips then nominated Shuman and Teixeira once again seconded.

The Speaker did not put Trotman’s nomination to the House first but instead went straight to Shuman’s nomination. After a voice vote which was deemed not conclusive, Nadir then announced a division which was undertaken by Isaacs. Shuman was thereafter declared elected based on the 33 votes from the PPP/C along with his.

The Deputy Speaker of the House is usually drawn from the opposition ranks. While Shuman, who was recently appointed advisor to the Minister of Public Works on civil aviation matters, is a member of the opposition he holds one seat as part of a list joinder with two other parties which contested the March 2nd general elections. The APNU+AFC has 31 seats and it would have been expected that someone from its ranks would have been elected as the deputy.

Following a break in yesterday’s session the APNU+AFC members returned to the chambers only to walk out in a show of protest at Shuman’s election. Prior to the walkout, Hughes had told reporters that the coalition was most concerned and disappointed over Shuman’s election adding that it was just another indication of the lack of willingness to work together and be able to consider and uphold some of the longstanding conventions that relate to the operation of Parliament.

Speaking to reporters during the break in the sitting, Hughes said that they found it an “abomination” that Shuman, whose party garnered 2,657 votes at the last elections, was elected as he cannot profess to represent the opposition and keep the PPP/C in check especially in light of the fact that he was recently appointed an adviser to the Government.

“It is sad that we cannot do the decent thing, the honourable thing. For me personally it is a sad day that we come to this honourable House and we cannot even honour these traditions, Hughes said.

She categorized Shuman’s election as another step in what the country has seen unleashed in the last three weeks by the government which is fear. Hughes, who recently held the position of Minister of Public Tele-communications, spoke about drivers she found when she was appointed at the ministry being sent home following the change of administration.

“We do not accept this government as leaders of this country we find it unacceptable at a time when we should be working together that you would allow a man with just over 2,000 votes to represent a group with over 217,000 votes,” she said.

Hughes also maintained the coalition’s line that the PPP/C Government is fraudulent and that they do not support the final election declaration.

‘Committed’

Earlier, the newly minted Speaker said after his nomination that he is committed to working with all sides of the House to ensure that that the 12th Parliament will be inscribed in the history of Guyana as being one of the most successful ever.

“I promise to be impartial fair and just while upholding the rules, laws and procedures in the execution of my responsibilities as Speaker,” Nadir, a former MP, said after he was sworn in.

He said it was with immense humility and gratitude that he accepted the position of Speaker  which comes after 40 years of public life that began at the corner of Cross and Third streets, Alexander Village when he made his first appearance on a public platform.

According to Nadir, as Guyana continues to transition into a more vibrant democracy within an emerging oil economy, it is of outmost importance that the 12th Parliament be effective, successful and exemplary.

Acknowledging the differences that divide the two sides, Nadir noted that Guyanese are united in love and patriotism for their country adding that like the Parliamentarians he has a passionate love for the country.

Addressing the new parliamentarians, he told them that their work required dedication, unbiased dialogue and acting in the best interest of the people of Guyana.

He pointed out that when an individual is elected he or she does so with the understanding that their constituents are entrusting them with their lives, future and rely on them to represent them by speaking on their behalf.

He urged them to always be accessible to their constituents and to uphold their vows to the people of Guyana.

The new speaker said he is enthused and dedicated to making this 12th Parliament one that will positively impact on the pertinent issues such as constitutional reform, legislative reform and the implementation of new laws that cater for our changing realities.

Nadir held the ministerial portfolios of tourism and labour under the PPP/C. 

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