History of Parliament
The Parliament of Guyana was created by the 1966 Constitution of Guyana, embodied in the Schedule of the Guyana Independence Order, made pursuant to the Guyana Independence Act, 1966. The Guyana Independence Act was passed on 12th May, 1966 and came into force on 26th May, 1966. The First sitting of the National Assembly of the First Parliament of Guyana Parliament was held on the 26th May, 1966.
While the law enacting Guyana’s Parliament came into force on 26th May, 1966, it would be misleading to conclude that Guyana’s Parliamentary system was created at Independence.
In 1831 the three Colonies of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice were united and the Colony of British Guiana was formed. From the years 1831 to 1928 the Law Making Body of British Guiana was the Court of Policy. The Court of Policy consisted of the Governor, seven official members and eight elected members. The Governor presided in the Court of Policy as its President.
In 1928 a new Constitution was introduced and British Guiana became a British Crown Colony. A Legislative Council was established and replaced the Dutch created Court of Policy.
In 1953 a new Constitution was promulgated and a bicameral legislature, consisting of a State Council and a House of Assembly was introduced. The State Council consisted of nine members. The House of Assembly consisted of a Speaker, three ex officio Members and twenty four Elected Members. The Speaker was appointed by the governor. A new and separate Department, which was called the Office of the Legislature, was established with a Clerk of the Legislature as its head, to serve the new bicameral Legislature. Also in 1953 also a Ministerial system of Government and universal adult suffrage were introduced.
The Legislature that came into effect in May, 1953 was short-lived as in October, 1953 the British suspended the Constitution and an Interim Government was established by the British Guiana (Constitutional) (Temporary Provisions) Order in Council, 1953. A Legislative council consisting of a Speaker, three ex officio Members and not more than twenty four Nominated Members was created by this Order on the 22nd December, 1953. The Speaker, who was not an ex officio member or Nominated member of the Legislative Council, was appointed by the Governor.
In 1956 the British Guiana (Constitutional) (Temporary Provisions) Order in Council was amended. The Legislative Council appointed under the British Guiana (Constitution) (Temporary Provisions) Order in Council was dissolved with effect from 29th June, 1957.
In 1957 general elections were held and the PPP Jaganite under the leadership of Dr. Cheddi Jagan won the elections. A second Legislative Council constituted under the (British Guiana (Constitution) Temporary Provisions) Orders in Council 1953 and 1956 was appointed. The Legislative Council consisted of the Speaker, three ex – offcio members, fourteen elected members and eleven nominated members.
In 1961 a new Constitution was established and a bicameral legislature consisting of a Legislative Assembly and a Senate was created. The Senate consisted of thirteen members, who were appointed by the Governor. Of the thirteen members, eight were appointed by the Governor in accordance with advice of the Premier, three were appointed by the Governor acting in consultation with such persons as, in his discretion, he considered could have spoken for the political points of view of groups represented in the Legislative Assembly by members constituting the minority and two were appointed by the Governor acting in his discretion. The Legislative Assembly consisted of thirty five (35) members elected under the electoral system of First Past the Post. Elections were held in May 1961 and the Peoples Progressive Party won 21 of the 35 seats in the Legislative Assembly. A Council of Ministers consisting of a Premier and nine other Ministers was also created. The Council of Ministers had general direction and control of the country and was collectively responsible to the Legislature .The Council of Ministers and the Premier were all members of the Legislative Assembly. The Premier was appointed by the Governor as a Member of the Legislative Assembly who was best able to command the confidence of a majority of members of the Legislative Assembly. Dr. Cheddi Jagan was appointed Guyana’s first Premier on the 6th of October, 1961.
In ancient times, a Mace was a weapon of defence. A Mace is now a ceremonial symbol of authority and is used in Commonwealth Parliaments. In Guyana, a Mace was used for the first time on 10th Septem¬ber, 1957. It was made of silver gilt.
When Guyana became a Republic on 23rd February, 1970, the head of the Mace, which depicted British Royal Arms, was replaced with Guyana's Coat of Arms. The head of the present mace was designed by the Ministry of Information and Culture. The original stem, which is one hundred and forty-five and a half centimeters in length, depicts a Victoria Regia Lily, one of the largest water lilies in the world, first discovered in British Guiana during the reign of Queen Victoria. The stem also includes representation of a rice plant in full bearing and a sugar cane in blossom, representing two of Guyana's principal products.
On entering and leaving the Parliament Chamber, the Speaker is pre¬ceded by the Sergeant-at-Arms bearing the Mace on his right shoulder. When the National Assembly is in session, the Mace is placed on the Clerk's table, with its head pointing towards the Government side of the Chamber. When the Assembly meets as a Committee of the Whole Assembly, the Mace is placed below the Clerk's table.
When the Mace lies upon the table, the House is in session;
When under, it is a Committee;
When out of the House, no business can be done;
When from the Table and upon the Sergeant's shoulder, the Speaker alone manages.