By Tusika Martin
After ten years of consultation and one year in a Special Select Committee, the Forest Bill 2007 was yesterday passed in the National Assembly.
It was all smooth sailing, as the ruling party was supported by the Parliamentary opposition without any rambling.
This, however, may have been due to the fact that the parties had sufficient time in the Select Committee to iron out their differences.
Addressing the National Assembly just before the Bill was passed, Minister of Agriculture with responsibilities for Forestry, Robert Persaud, who was also the Chairman of the Special Select Committee, said that the Forest Bill 2007 sought to replace the existing legislation, which is outdated and which has been in place in its current form for about 54 years.
The Forest Bill 2007, he added, has benefited from consultation with various stakeholders, with the Select Committee accepting submissions and having interactions with stakeholders in the private sector, the Forest Products Association, and other groupings within the national environment.
“We have also had interaction with a number of international agencies. The Bill also takes into account the important contribution and the role that our forest resources can play in climate change mitigation, and also the provision of environmental services.”
The Minister pointed out that the legislation examines the framework under which the forest is managed, and takes into account certain international developments, to ensure that Guyana is compliant to the international realities.
Persaud told the National Assembly yesterday that the Select Committee met on 15 occasions during the one-year period, and placed a lot of emphasis on consultation and public advertisements in the media, inviting both written and oral submissions.
“After all the submission, the committee engaged in intense deliberations on those recommendations. All of the recommendations were studied and analyzed…Experts were asked to offer opinions on the submissions made for the committee to review and deliberate on.”
As a result of those deliberations, Persaud said, 44 clauses were amended in the Bill.
The amendments to the Forest Bill 2007 will give impetus to Guyana’s initiative being led by President Bharrat Jagdeo in seeking incentives for avoided deforestation, Persaud added.
This type of legislation, he said, will see Guyana ‘standing taller’ in the global community of nations which perform sound forest management practices but also have policies that guide those practices.
“We also hope that our legislation can be seen as a global yardstick for a comprehensive forestry utilization and management approach.”
The Forest Bill 2007 was first introduced in the National Assembly in August 2007, and was sent to the Special Select Committee in November of the same year.
Chief Whip of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Lance Carberry, in supporting the Bill yesterday, said that the forest must be seen as a ‘complex biological pool’ which includes timber and non-timber resources.
He added that today’s world has recognised that some of the non-timber resources are more valuable than timber itself.
“We wanted to ensure that the Forest Bill ensures that the work of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) is transparent, and as such the amendments were intended to induce transparency.
He noted that it will ensure that the GFC pursues policies that would lead to sustainable forestry practices.
Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan, highlighted to the National Assembly that the Forest Bill 2007 has set a good precedent as to what consultation should be when a major policy is being made in relation to a prime industry of the country.
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