MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS SEEKS TO USURP POLICE POWERS TO ISSUE FIREARM LICENSES CONTRARY TO RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE DISCIPLINED FORCES COMMISSION--PRESS STATEMENT Friday 23 April 2010




SUMMARY:
• The leadership of the PNCR takes this opportunity to record our profound sorrow on the occasion of the passing of this valued colleague and friend and we express our sincere condolences to his family, relatives and friends;
• The PNCR wishes to notify members of the public that the Report of the Auditor General is a public document. Accordingly, we urge citizens to avail themselves of the opportunity to be informed about the malfeasance of the Administration;
• The PNCR notes the special measures introduced in the Sexual Offences Bill 2009 to reduce the trauma, of both child and adult victims alike, during the trial of their attackers;
• The PNCR objects to the pre-emptive action of the Minister of Home Affairs which is in bad faith and contemptuous of the ongoing deliberations, on the very subject of the authority for the granting of Firearms Licenses, that is now before the Special Select Committee of the National Assembly.

CONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILY OF CLARENCE ELLIS

The People’s National Congress Reform received the news of the death of Mr. Clarence Ellis with great sadness, despite our knowing of his ill health over a protracted period.

With his death Guyana has lost a brilliant son, a true patriot and an outstanding representative of the masses of the Guyanese people.

For more than twenty years, between 1968 and 1992, Clarence Ellis placed his enormous talents, as Economist and Researcher, at the disposal of his country. This was, historically speaking, an important transitional period as the newly independent Guyana sought to lay the foundations for a strong and vibrant economy.

His work, at the then newly established Central Bank, the Bank of Guyana, is legendary. He rose to the position of Deputy Governor of the Bank while serving, at the same time, as Chairman of the State Planning Board.

A true village boy, Clarence Ellis’ life and work always embodied the aspirations of the villagers, as he strove to bring economic and social improvement to the conditions of the poor and the powerless.

His loyalty to his beloved country, Guyana, was never in question. For even as he lived out the evening of his years in the United States of America, he continued to champion many of the causes for which the masses of Guyanese struggle every day.

His well documented position on Shared Governance for Guyana, as the way forward, remains an important legacy still to be sought after and achieved.

The leadership of the PNCR takes this opportunity to record our profound sorrow on the occasion of the passing of this valued colleague and friend and we express our sincere condolences to his family, relatives and friends.

THE AUDITOR GENERAL REPORT 2008: WOULD THE GOVERNMENT CONTINUE TO IGNORE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR PUBLIC RESOURCES?

The Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003 (FMAA), provides “... for the regulation of the preparation and execution of the annual budget; the receipt, control and disbursement of public moneys; the accounting for public moneys; and such other matters connected with or incidental to the transparent and efficient management of the finances of Guyana.”

The Annual Report of the Auditor General must be examined in the context of this Act which confers wide responsibilities on the Minister of Finance for the management and accounting for “public moneys”. Therefore, it is in this context that the PNCR, after conducting our review of the 2008 Report of the Auditor General, call on the Minister of Finance to ensure that, all levels of the PPP/C Jagdeo Administration, treat his responses to the following issues with the seriousness and commitment to transparency and accountability that is the rightful expectations of the Guyanese people:

 The continued abuse of the Consolidated Fund;
 Overpayment to Contractors;
 Breaches of Tender Board Procedures;
 The abuse of extra-Budgetary funds;
 The disposal and accounting for public assets; and
 Breaches of Stores Regulations.

These issues represent a critical sample of the continuing breaches of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act which have been repeatedly reported on by the Public Accounts Committee, in its Reports to the National Assembly.

Unfortunately, the 2008 Report of the Auditor General indicates that, despite the previous Reports of the Public Accounts Committee, nothing has changed. Therefore, the same issues continue to be sighted by the Auditor General.

Abuse of the Consolidated Fund
A perusal, of the last two Treasury Memoranda, from the Minister of Finance, revealed that the responses remain exactly the same. The PNCR can, therefore, only conclude that there is no commitment, by the Minister of Finance and, perhaps, the entire Cabinet, to correct the continued blatant abuses of the Consolidated Fund.

With respect to the proceeds from the Guyana Lotteries the response by the Minister of Finance, in paragraph 20 of the Treasury Memorandum of 26 April, 2006 and paragraph 24 of the Treasury Memorandum of 7th November, 2008 is exactly the same. This response constitutes a knowing breach of the Constitution which clearly indicates that these proceeds should be placed in the Consolidated Fund. The Minister’s argument that the funds are properly accounted for, outside of depositing same into the Consolidated Fund, confirms the view that the Administration is contemptuous of the Laws of Guyana.

Good Governance requires transparency and accountability for public moneys and assets. It should be evident to all that the members of the Administration consider themselves to be above the Law. Therefore, the responses, of the Minister of Finance, to the Reports of the Public Accounts Committee, and the, seemingly, boundless environment of corrupt practices, at all levels, demonstrate the arrogant belief that they could continue to treat the Public Accounts and Public assets in a cavalier and disdainful manner.

The PNCR wishes to notify members of the public that the Report of the Auditor General is a public document. Accordingly, we urge citizens to avail themselves of the opportunity to be informed about the malfeasance of the Administration.

The Minister of Finance is once again being called upon to efficiently and effectively discharge his responsibilities under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.

THE SEXUAL OFFENCES BILL 2009: BILL NO. 30 2009

The vastly improved Sexual Offences Bill No. 30 of 2009, which emerged from the work of the Special Select Committee of the National Assembly, amply demonstrate the benefits to be derived from a respectful, co-operative, consultative and consensual approach for the consideration of sensitive and emotionally charged matters of far reaching societal importance.

Accordingly, the resulting Bill was unanimously passed by the National Assembly yesterday, Thursday 22 April 2010.

The Sexual Offences Bill No. 30 of 2009 is one of the few Bills that was predicated on the provisions of Article 13 of our Constitution which requires the provision of “...increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State...”

The PNCR believes and advocates that when the people speak on issues troubling them, they should be meaningfully consulted, listened to, and encouraged to suggest their own solutions which must be honoured and respected.

The Sexual Offences Bill 2009 is comprehensive and tantamount to a codification of the law pertaining to sexual offences, while, at the same time, modernizing that law.

The definition of rape is widened to include non-penile objects of penetration. Likewise, the accused person must prove that he had a reasonable belief that the complainant was consenting. A woman could be equally guilty of rape, under the widened definition.

The Bill makes plain that marriage, or a common-law relationship, is not a defence for rape or other charges.

The PNCR notes the protective legislative architecture built into the Bill. For sexual offences in relation to children, the Prosecution does not have to prove that a child did not consent to the rape. Moreover, new offences have been created to protect children from predators, including family members and persons in positions of trust to a child.

The PNCR notes the special measures introduced in this Bill to reduce the trauma, of both child and adult victims alike, during the trial of their attackers. Some measures include: the screening of the witness from the accused; giving live video link evidence; and the examination of witnesses via an intermediary. The Bill disallows cross-examination of a victim by the accused.

Provision is made for every report of a sexual offence made to the Police, to be documented and a charge laid by the Police within three months. Failure to do so requires the Police to send the file embodying the complaint to the D.P.P.

Paper Committals are provided for to ensure speedy justice. There will no longer be any oral Preliminary Inquiry for sexual offences.

Bail is obtainable but the accused must satisfy certain statutory requirements as a precondition.

The PNCR agrees with the establishment of the National Task Force For The Prevention of Sexual Violence with named members and a Sexual Violence Unit.

The PNCR appreciates that, in our system of Justice, an accused person has a presumption of innocence in his favour, and hopes that, this is not lost in any intemperate zeal, in interpreting and applying the revolutionary provisions in the Bill.

MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS SEEKS TO USURP POLICE POWERS TO ISSUE FIREARM LICENSES CONTRARY TO RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE DISCIPLINED FORCES COMMISSION

Resolution No. 48, dated 8 July 2004, FURTHER RESOLVED,

“That this National Assembly refers the Reports of the Disciplined Services Commission to a Special Select Committee for review within a period of four months, and thereafter to report to this National Assembly as to the manner in which such of the recommendations which are accepted, ought to be implemented including which Committee of this National Assembly will monitor such implementation.”

The work of the Special Select Committee was not completed when the National Assembly was dissolved in preparation for the 2006 National and Regional Elections. Therefore, Resolution No. 33, dated 26 July 2007, FURTHER RESOLVED,

“That the newly established Special Select Committee of the Ninth Parliament take cognizance of the work done by the Special Select Committee of the Eight Parliament that considered the Report and its recommendations.”

The mandate of the present Special Select Committee remain unchanged and the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Clement Rohee, who is a member of the Committee is fully cognizant of the status of the work of the Committee.

The Minister is aware that Recommendations 62-66 of the Disciplined Services Commission (DFC) clarifies that, under the Firearm Act Chapter 16:05, the Minister of Home Affairs was not intended by Parliament to have the direct statutory function of granting firearms licences himself, but rather should be statutorily responsible for appointing a fit and proper person to do so [S. 45(1)].

Those Recommendations further clarified that Standing Order No. 91 of 1964 of the Guyana Police Force, which purported to provide the procedure to be applied for the assessment of Firearms Licence applications, spawned the practice for a firearm licence to be granted by Divisional Commanders only if the Commissioner of Police and/or the Minister approves the grant of the application.

The DFC felt that Standing Order 91/64 was due to the misapplication of Section 7 (1) of the Police Act which confers on the Commissioner of Police that overall function of command and superintendence of the entire Guyana Police Force (GPF), subject to the general orders and directions of the Minister.

The DFC felt that Standing Order 91/64 cannot be lawfully substituted for the provisions of section 18 of the Firearms Act, and Regulation 3 of Firearms Regulations, which provide that applications for a firearm licence must be made in the prescribed form to the prescribed officer for the area in which the applicant resides and that the Prescribed officer is to make a grant of a firearm licence only if he is satisfied that the applicant had good reasons for having in his possession such firearm. The prescribed officer would be the Divisional Commanders of the GPF.

The DFC further recommended that Regulatory amendments should be made to the Firearms Act to give the Commissioner of Police supervisory control over Divisional Commander with regard to the granting of firearm licences.

It is, therefore, a matter for deep concern that the Minister of Home Affairs has surreptitiously Gazetted, dated 10 April 2010, Regulations Made Under THE FIREARMS ACT Chapter 16:05 which state the following:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of these Regulations, the Minister shall have the power to disregard the recommendations of the Firearms Licensing Approval Board and arrive at his decision to grant or refuse the certificate of registration in accordance with his own deliberate judgement.”

The PNCR objects to the pre-emptive action of the Minister of Home Affairs which is in bad faith and contemptuous of the ongoing deliberations, on the very subject of the authority for the granting of Firearms Licenses, that is now before the Special Select Committee of the National Assembly.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday 23 April 2010