News on Sunday

Speaker’s foreign trips create a stir

At the start of parliamentary works this Tuesday, April 5, the seats of Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo, Thierry Henry and Ezra Jhuboo were left empty. Exchanges happened in a more or less calm atmosphere despite the political turmoil within the ranks of the majority.  Once the PNQ was over, the Speaker, Mrs Maya Hanoomanjee, left the chair as the question set by opposition MP Aadil Ameer Meeah purported to the foreign trips she undertook since being elected in January 2015. The deputy Speaker Adrien Duval stepped in to preside over debates. The opposition MP sought information regarding the number of trips and composition of delegations, the purpose and duration of those trips as well as the total cost to the State. At that point, vice prime minister Ivan Collendavelloo raised a point of order: “Whether the House can put a question on the actions and movements of the Speaker.” Sir Anerood Jugnauth emphasized on the separation of powers between the legislature and the executive. The office of the Speaker, he said, is considered as being independent from the legislature. “I have neither control nor responsibility on overseas missions, and the decision to accept or refuse an invitation to attend a conference rests solely with the Speaker. The Executive has nothing to do and cannot interfere in the decision of the Speaker in the exercise of her duties. Therefore, my interference in matters under the control of the Speaker would be against the principle of separation of powers.” Dissatisfied with the reply, members of the opposition once more sought details on the overseas missions arguing that it concerns public funds. Aadil Ameer Meeah even added that “the Speaker has made effected eleven missions abroad and that during five times she was accompanied by her husband.” Mrs Hanoomanjee spoke to Radio Plus on the same day. Her husband, she said, paid for his own travelling costs whenever they travelled together. “My husband has the right to accompany me during on my trips. I cannot do so at the expense of the State. Public funds were never used to fund my husband’s travelling costs. I have all the receipts to prove that my husband travelled at his own costs. I do not abuse of parliamentary missions,” she said. During the debates, majority MP Ravi Rutnah stood up to raise a point of order on the principle of “putting a question to the Speaker.” The rather loud remarks from the opposition benches hindered his attempt. News on Sunday wanted to know the details of his point of order. This is what Ravi Rutnah had to say: “In relation to the above, the point of order that I took is to be found at section 22(n) of Standing Orders which states that ‘no question can be asked on matters relating to the jurisdiction of the Speaker.’ By answering this question, we would have set a dangerous precedent to the very principle of parliamentary democracy. The post of Speaker is a creation of section 32 of our Constitution. It is therefore a constitutional post which is independent and the Speaker by virtue of her appointment to chair the House is impartial,” he said. According to the MP, who is also a barrister, the post is such that Parliament is considered a kingdom of its own and it decides what and how to do business without any interference thus preserving the principle of separation of powers. “This principle is the very plank on which parliamentary democracy and the respect for separation of powers lies.” He concludes: “As far as I am concerned this question should not have been allowed at all.”
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