Tempers flare in Parliament over proposed import restrictions bill


Tensions ran high in Parliament on Friday, November 24, 2023, as the Minister for Trade and Industry, K.T. Hammond, and the Minority caucus clashed over an attempt to introduce a legislative instrument (LI) restricting the importation of selected strategic products.

The proposed LI, which had not been included in the business statement for either last week or this week, sparked concerns among the Minority group.

They argued that the lack of prior notice and consultation with the Minority amounted to an “ambush” on the House.

First Deputy Minority Whip, Ahmed Ibrahim, expressed his disapproval of the proposed LI, stating, “Mr Speaker, this is a very controversial issue that is being discussed… Mr Speaker, this LI we are talking about is neither in the business statement for last week nor this week. Mr Speaker, it is an ambush and also a form of ambushing the house to do what should not be done.”

He further appealed to the leadership and the Speaker to reconsider the introduction of the LI, emphasizing that the matter required more deliberation and consensus.

“I want to conclude by making a passionate appeal to the leadership and to your good self that we must not ambush the Speaker in this way.”

In response, the Minister for Trade and Industry, K.T. Hammond, took issue with Ibrahim’s remarks, particularly his reference to “ambushing” the House.

Mr. Hammond argued that the term was inappropriate and that the proposed LI was being introduced in accordance with parliamentary procedures.

The Minister also addressed concerns raised by Ibrahim regarding the lack of prior consultation with the Minority group.

He asserted that the Ministry of Trade and Industry had engaged with the Minority on the proposed LI and had addressed their concerns.

“Mr Speaker, I find it extreme for a member of this house to threaten a sitting, competent, and elected Deputy Second Deputy Speaker of the house. I find it atrocious, it’s in bad taste… Constitutionally, you were elected to that seat. He cannot blackmail you.”

“…What the substantive Speaker said yesterday is contrary to what he is saying. So I am not sure if he was trying to re-quote [the Speaker] but I sat through here the whole of yesterday until we closed… Mr Speaker is very cautious of the constitutional imperative and the Legislative Instrument.”