A la suite d’une déclaration du député du MMM Steve Obeegadoo au Mauricien dans le sillage des interpellations adressée au Premier ministre lors de la séance parlementaire de mardi dernier, le speaker, Razack Peeroo, a fait une déclaration au Parlement estimant que son impartialité avait été mise en cause.
Le Mauricien voudrait rassurer le Speaker qu’il n’a jamais voulu de quelque manière que ce soit remettre en cause son impartialité en reprenant la déclaration du député mauve faite spontanément à une de ses journalistes mardi et regrette si cela a été perçu comme tel. Nous publions ci dessous la déclaration du Speaker.
Le Mauricien Newspaper 17.12.13 – Impugned Article
M. Speaker : Hon. Members, I have a statement to make in relation to an article published in the newspaper “Le Mauricien” on 17 December 2013.
In the impugned article, it is alleged that the Third Member for Curepipe and Midlands, M. S. Obeegadoo, has, I quote –
« (…) a dénoncé « le parti pris du Speaker Razack Peeroo » qui ne lui a pas accordé l’occasion de poser une question supplémentaire au PM. « Il n’y avait pas aujourd’hui de contrainte de temps, n’ayant pas de PNQ àl’agenda, et la question précédente avait pris très peu de temps. ». Selon le député, « il y a eu une pratique instaurée par le Speaker lui-même », poursuivant « Combien de questions n’ont-elles pas donné lieu à de nombreuses interpellations supplémentaires, de surcroit sur des sujets de moindre importance. Il y a eu une levée de boucliers de la part de plusieurs membres de l’opposition : Ganoo, Jugnauth, Bodha (…) »
I wish to draw the attention of the hon. Members to section 6, subsection (1), of paragraph (s) of the National Assembly (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act which reads as follows –
6. Contempt of the Assembly
(1) Subject to subsection (2), each of the following acts, matters and things, constitutes the offence of contempt of the Assembly –
(s) uttering or publishing any statement reflecting on the conduct or character of, or containing or amounting to an accusation of partiality in the discharge of his duty by the Speaker, Deputy Speaker or Chairperson of any committee ;
Notwithstanding the above section, it is also well established that the speeches and writings which cast reflection on the character and impartiality of the Speaker in the discharge of his duty constitute a breach of privilege and contempt of the House and that his action cannot be criticised incidentally in debate or in any form of proceeding, except by way of a substantive motion.
According to me, the point in law is beyond doubt and to anyone concerned with the parliamentary system, it is clear that the impugned article, not only reeks of malice both in its conception and in its contents as it deliberately accuses the Speaker of partiality, but it reflects on his character and actions as Speaker, which amounts to gross breach of privilege of the Speaker and of the House.
As for the newspaper which has published the impugned article, I wish to reiterate that the freedom of the press, a fundamental right in our country, is subject to reasonable restrictions and does not comprise of deliberate tendentious and motivated attacks on the great institution of this Republic.
The freedom of the press does not contemplate making reckless allegations devoid of truth and lacking good faith.
In this context, I refer to the sequence of events in regard to the said Parliamentary Question, whereby several hon. Members were given all latitude to put supplementary questions, apart from the Third Hon. Member for Curepipe and Midlands, as can be ascertained from the Hansard. And the said Member rose, well after the First Member for Savanne and Black River (M. Ganoo) had put the next question appearing on the Notice Paper and the hon. Prime Minister had already started answering when he rose to ask permission to put yet another supplementary question. To all intents and purposes, I could not come back on a Parliamentary Question for which time had been already been foreclosed.
Needless to say that, as Speaker of the House, I am vested with many powers to assist me in my duty to ensure the orderly conduct of the business of the House. However, I am sure hon. Members must be aware that, since my assumption to this high office, I have been regularly meeting the Whips of both sides of the House and hon. Members to seek their cooperation and valuable suggestion to discharge the said duty.
As to the actions to be taken, I reserve any stand that I may take, in the light of the above.
Thank you.