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National Assembly

National Assembly |25 October 2023

Briefest PNQ leads to walkout by US caucus  


In one of the briefest replies to a Private Notice Question in the National Assembly, deputy Speaker, Gervais Henrie, yesterday used Standing Order 37-2 to excuse Vice-President Ahmed Afif after he had answered a question tabled by the leader of the opposition, Sebastien Pillay, in less than two minutes.

The Standing Order cited by Mr Henrie gives the Speaker power not to allow supplementary questions that go against Standing Order 36, which talks about content of the question.

It followed Hon. Pillay’s PNQ, questioning the government’s policy with regard to political activities during working hours and in that context to explain why the government decided to hold a workshop on political campaign for some activists of the ‘Linyon Demokratik Seselwa’, including some public service workers at Escale on Friday, October 20, 2023, during working hours.

In his very brief reply, Vice-President Afif informed the National Assembly that “government’s policy is in a public document which has not been amended since October 24, 2020”, adding he would have thought that Hon. Pillay was familiar with the document.

“But since this is not the case, I will refer him to the Public Service Orders, section 121,” he stated.

In reference to the second part of the question with regard to the political campaign, Mr Afif stated that this was false. 

“The second question is false and is therefore not a question that makes any sense because the government did not organise any seminar for any political party.”

Ruling that VP’s answers were satisfactory and were in line with the Standing Orders of the assembly, deputy Speaker Henrie excused him from the house, sparking an angry reaction from the opposition with Hon. Pillay claiming the workshop was chaired by President Wavel Ramkalawan, who was the chief of the public service and the question was therefore relevant.

He also claimed that the meeting, which took place during working hours, was sponsored by the Qatari government, a claim refuted by the deputy speaker who informed the house that the event was sponsored by a German-based organisation named Freidrich Norman Foundation.

He also informed the house that the head of state did not chair the meeting but was present in his capacity as honorary president of the party to deliver a keynote address.

Following the response, Hon. Pillay expressed his party’s discontent that the deputy speaker had replied on behalf of a minister and raised a Matter of Privilege accusing his party of violating the Political Parties Registration Act, which states that no international organisation should be funding political activities in another country.

This prompted the US caucus to walk out.

It should be noted that upon resumption of the session at 11am, deputy Speaker Henrie explained that his interpretation of assistance or financial donations to political parties did not relate to non-monetary things such as training, workshop or capacity-building.

He added the “the workshop which was the subject of the PNQ this morning was a private event organised by a political party and not by the executive branch of government nor the National Assembly”, therefore ruling that the privilege of any member or that of the assembly was not affected.

He advised Hon. Pillay to address his concern to the Electoral Commission or the Public Service Bureau.

It should be noted that yesterday’s entire session was attended only by the ruling party, which was celebrating  three years since their accession to power on October 24, 2020.


Patsy Canaya

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