Opposition MP fighting contempt charge

GEORGETOWN, Guyana: A parliamentarian from the nation’s main opposition People’s National Congress Reform party (PNCR) is defending herself against charges that she is guilty of contempt of the National Assembly following “an offensive statement” about the defense forces of Guyana.

Deborah Backer has tabled a motion seeking leave from the House to question Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh. Three months ago, Dr. Singh moved a motion that referred Backer to the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges, which addresses disciplinary action against members of the House.

The matter arose from the debate on the October 15, 2009 sitting of Parliament on the deployment of 90 members of the Guyana Defense Force to provide security support to Trinidad and Tobago during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November.

In her contribution, Backer questioned whether Guyanese soldiers were going to the twin-island nation “to torture people”.

A week later, Singh moved the motion to refer Backer to the Committee of Privileges on charges of contempt of the National Assembly.

In supporting the move, members of the government said Backer’s statement “cast aspersions on the thousands of hardworking young Guyanese men and women who serve with distinction in the disciplined forces and their families and, by extension, is an affront to the Guyanese people”.

Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran ruled that a prima facie case had been established against Backer, clearing the way for the matter to be taken before the Committee of Privileges.

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