PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday, December 18, 2003 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
• The PNCR has always encouraged and applauded academic excellence.
• The PNCR used the debate in the National Assembly to identify its major concerns, to suggest options for consideration and to propose specific amendments in the expectation that this would give strength to the case for the Select Committee process.
• The PNCR compliments the Chairman and Commissioners of the Disciplined Forces Commission for presenting an interim report on the functioning of the Guyana Police Force to the National Assembly within the time prescribed.
• One of the important points that have been noted worldwide is that violent attacks and armed wars do not help the fight against drugs.
RHODES SCHOLARSHIP: MS. AMLATA PERSAUD:
The PNCR has always encouraged and applauded academic excellence and so when the news reached us that a Guyanese had been awarded the coveted honour of being named a Rhodes Scholar, the Party felt it important to say congratulations to Ms. Amlata Persaud. Ms. Persaud has made Guyana proud and no doubt as well, her parents, school and teachers. We wish her every success in the years ahead and trust that this signal honour will not be overlooked, but be used as the high standard, which all students will be encouraged to attain.
THE FISCAL MANAGEMENT BILL WALKOUT:
When, at the sitting of the National Assembly on Monday December 15th, 2003, the Government refused to send the FISCAL MANAGEMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY BILL to a Select Committee of the National Assembly the PNCR was left with no option but to refuse to take any further part in the proceedings of the Assembly.
By the admission of the Minister of Finance himself in the National Assembly the bill was acknowledged to be a complex one. It consisted of 87 clauses some of which had constitutional implications, others repealed large parts of existing law and yet others introduced new concepts with far reaching, and even unacceptable, implications for Parliamentary oversight of public revenues and expenditures.
While this bill had been some 9 months in incubation the Parliamentary opposition were given approximately one week within which to digest the bill’s contents before its debate in, and passage through, the National Assembly.
On the morning of Monday 15th December, 2003 the PNCR shadow Minister of Finance, Mr. Winston Murray wrote the Minister of Finance a letter in which he expressed the PNCR view that many of the concepts and provisions of the bill were acceptable and that in general the bill may have been supportable if the Government was prepared to allow reasonable time for in depth consideration of all the issues, by supporting the suggestion of the PNCR that the bill be sent to a Select Committee of the National Assembly for that purpose.
The PNCR used the debate in the National Assembly to identify its major concerns, to suggest options for consideration and to propose specific amendments in the expectation that this would give strength to the case for the Select Committee process.
The WPA and Roar Members of Parliament made it clear during the debate that they did not have sufficient time to deliberate on the contents of the bill and were not going to be rushed into a debate prematurely. Shortly after making their positions known they departed the National Assembly.
It should also be recalled that the Parliamentary Management Committee was recently created under a supposed new dispensation for the management of the business of the National Assembly and that this body had taken a unanimous decision that all complex legislation would go to a Select Committee of the Assembly.
In informal discussions between Government MPs and PNCR MPs during the debate an understanding was arrived at that the bill would go to Select Committee but agreement could not be reached on the length of time for the committee’s work. The Government wanted a predetermined time of less than 24 hours while the PNCR was of the view that completion of discussions on all the issues was what should determine the period of the committee’s life and that if less than 24 hours proved sufficient then that would be acceptable but to have predetermined a time span was to make time and not the issues the predominant factor in the work of the committee.
Without even the courtesy of a prior indication, the Minister of Finance in winding up the debate did not even mention the words Select Committee and we had to take our cue from the events that followed that the Government had unilaterally abandoned the Select Committee process. The total disregard of the PNCR’s views ,the utter contempt for the unanimous decision of the Parliamentary Management Committee re complex bills and the abandonment of normal civilized behaviour towards the PNCR with whom there were negotiations, left the PNCR with no option but to take no further part in the proceedings. But this, apparently, is how the Government intends to build the trust and confidence it talks about so glibly at every opportunity as a cornerstone of its policy towards the PNCR.
The PNCR is very distressed at the fact that even when, as in this case, there is obvious potential for the opposition and the Government to work together to promulgate the best possible legislation for the people of Guyana the Government sacrifices the opportunity at the alter of convenience.
We are told that there was a deadline for the passage of this bill if debt relief was not to be lost. Since this deadline was known, in advance, for some time by the Government the real question is why the Government not ensured that the bill came to the National Assembly in good enough time to allow for a full and proper consideration of all relevant issues. There is no one but the Government to blame for this unacceptable situation.
This is the second time in quick succession that the Government has rushed complex legislation with far reaching national consequences in great haste through the National Assembly. The prior occasion was the passage of the procurement bill.
We are led to believe that the repeated pretext of an imminent deadline may be a deliberate creation by the Government to stifle debate and deny the essence of Parliamentary democracy to the opposition. This approach does not bode well for our beloved country.
The PNCR shall continue, nevertheless, to seek out opportunities to work with others, including the Government, to pursue, indefatigably, the national interest.
DISCIPLINED FORCES COMMISSION:
The PNCR compliments the Chairman and Commissioners of the Disciplined Forces Commission for presenting an interim report on the functioning of the Guyana Police Force to the National Assembly within the time prescribed. This, in the Party’s view, is testament to the fact that diverse views and opinions can be harnessed to arrive at consensus positions in the national interest.
The PNCR wishes again to praise the work of former Commissioner Maggie Beirne and to welcome the appointment of Dr. Lutchman. The Party remains convinced that in the interest of achieving modernized disciplined forces, the Commission will continue to work assiduously to complete its remaining work and to produce a veritable blue print for future success in this regard. It is apposite to note that one of the principal recommendations contained in the interim report has been a call for the government to table a five-year plan for the rehabilitation of the Guyana Police Force. For our part, we remain ready, willing and able to further the work of the Commission and have already identified a team of Parliamentarians to examine and give effect to the numerous findings and recommendations contained in its many pages. Continuing events of crime and consequential insecurity generated within the citizenry makes the work of Parliament urgent and the Party therefore calls on the government to join with it in making this a priority in the upcoming weeks.
IS GUYANA BECOMING A NARCO STATE?
Studies of drug production and trafficking have labelled certain countries as narco states, that is states where the production, distribution, transhipment and export of illegal narcotic drugs has so permeated the economic political and social life of the country. There are certain criteria which are applied in deciding whether or not a state is or is becoming a narco state.
1. The extent to which the country is a major producer or exporter of one or more major narcotic substance.
2. The extent to which the production and export of narcotics forms a significant proportion of the country’s gross national income.
3. The degree to which the laundering of illegal drug money has distorted and corrupted the financial markets and institutions.
4. The extent to which the operations of drug organisations have corrupted the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies.
5. The extent to which crimes which are related to drug trafficking such as illegal firearms trade and people smuggling have grown.
6. The degree to which the crime and internal security situation has deteriorated as a result of the penetration of drug traffickers.
7. The extent to which the operations of drug traffickers and the related violence and insecurity has affected political instability.
8. The extent to which some civil authorities and institutions and both public and political officials are corrupted by connections with the narcotic trade.
9. The degree to which the state offers protection to the operations of drug producers and traffickers and the degree to which despite the declarations of wars on drugs, the drug trade operated without significant detection or prosecution.
10. The extent to which the operations and connections of known drug lords affect public policy.
One of the important points that have been noted worldwide is that violent attacks and armed wars do not help the fight against drugs. Indeed, many experts argue that violent drug wars without proper policing and effective detection and correction of the scourge of money laundering often create increased instability and triggers violent reactions of the drug organisations. While Guyana is probably not yet a major producer or exporter in the order of the leading narco states, it appears that most of the other criteria apply to some degree. The people of Guyana are invited to judge for themselves whether based on their answers to these questions Guyana is, or is on the way to becoming a ‘Narcostate’
HOYTE COMMEMORATION ACTIVITIES:
As part of the first anniversary of the passing of the late Former President Desmond Hoyte an half hour television documentary entitled HOYTE IN ACTION produced by FRANCIS QUAMINA FARRIER will be aired on local television channels over the next week. In addition the following activities are planned and we look forward to the participation of all Guyanese:
DATE EVENT TIME
Sun, December 21, 2003 Walk & Run 6:00 am
Mon, December 22, 2003 Floral Tribute at Seven Ponds
Choral Memorial entitled “COURAGE”
New Amsterdam Town Hall, East Berbice 7:00 am
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, December 18, 2003
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