Parliament brief for PNC group

By Michelle Elphage
Guyana Chronicle
July 15, 1998

PEOPLE'S National Congress (PNC) members named to sit in Parliament yesterday met Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Frank Narain for a last minute briefing on what is expected when the party takes up its seats today.

A top Parliamentary source said two PNC members, Mr. Neaz Subhan and Mr. Winston Murray, on the party list of 25, will most likely not take their oaths today because they were out of the country up to yesterday.

Led by PNC General Secretary, Mr. Aubrey Norton, most of the 17 members at yesterday's meeting will serve for the first time as Members of Parliament (MPs).

Narain, in his briefing which lasted more than an hour, explained the workings of the National Assembly to the members, also advising them of their benefits.

Salaries and allowances of MPs are payable at the Parliament office at monthend, Narain explained, noting that the PNC members will start receiving their payments retroactive to July 13, when they were declared members for the second time by the Elections Commission.

The Clerk told the Chronicle that according to the rules governing Parliament, the PNC MPs of this 7th Parliament had received their payments from January 30, when they were first declared from the results of the December 15 elections, to February 25, the day before the first sitting.

Narain explained their payments were stopped because they did not make or subscribe to the oath on February 26.

He said an MP is normally paid from when he/she is declared a member, but this payment stops if the member does not take the oath at the first sitting of the Assembly.

If the oath is taken at subsequent sittings, before the member's seat is declared vacant, he/she will be paid from when the oath is taken.

Monthly salaries in Guyana dollars for MPs are:

Minority Leader $77,280

Chief Whip $28,036

Public Members $20,700.

The Minority Leader also receives a duty and entertainment allowance of $500 each, while public members get $150 and $250, respectively.

Narain said all members of the National Assembly receive a travel allowance of $8,289 a month.

Other benefits include the payment of the members' local residential telephone bills, free passes for all services of the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) and duty free concessions for motor vehicles.

The Clerk said the duty free concessions are granted one in every five years for a new car and one in every there years for a used car.

A source told the Chronicle yesterday that PNC leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte had been receiving his salary as Minority Leader from the 6th Parliament over to the 7th Parliament until his seat was declared vacant last month.

The source explained that in Hoyte's case, his status as Minority Leader was never revoked when he did not attend Parliament to take his oath, and it was only when his seat was declared vacant last month that his salary was stopped.

The PNC members are expected to take up seats in the National Assembly for the first time today, since the 7th Parliament was convened on February 26.

A Bill allowing the 25 PNC members to enter the House after losing their seats because they boycotted Parliament was passed in Parliament last week and assented to by President Janet Jagan.

According to the Standing Orders governing Parliament, the PNC group lost its seats after missing six consecutive sittings in two months without being granted permission from the Speaker.

PNC members who attended yesterday's meeting included Attorneys-at-Law, Mr. Raphael Trotman and Ms. Deborah Backer, Ms Cyrilda DeJesus, Dr Dalgeish Joseph, Mr. John Simon De Freitas, Dr Faith Harding, Mr. Andrew Hicks and Mr. Sherwood Lowe.

Of the three regional representatives, Mr. Joseph Hamilton (Region Four) and Ms. Sandra Adams (Region Ten) were also at the meeting.

Although the PNC 25 had lost their seats, the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) kept the door open and tabled the law changes last week to allow their entry.

The smaller Minority parties, the Alliance For Guyana and The United Force backed the enabling Bill.

The PNC, which had mounted street demonstrations in Georgetown against the results of the December elections, agreed to enter Parliament by today under the St. Lucia Agreement President Jagan and Hoyte signed in St. Lucia on July 2.