Feb 11, 2016 News
By Jarryl Bryan
Embattled Opposition Member of Parliament, Dr. Jennifer Westford, braved the jeers from the Government
benches to make her maiden speech in the 11th parliament on Tuesday. Among the measures she called for was for Government to rescind the ban on importing used tyres and on the importation of cars older than eight years.
Westford, who was earlier this month slapped with 24 charges for the reported theft of $639.4M while she served as Minister of Public Service, endured catcalls and laughter at her expense while she addressed the House. She noted that the ban will not benefit Guyana’s drive for a green economy, as the country is not a high emitter of green house gases.
She said that this will bring undue hardship to ordinary Guyanese. It will make no impact, as the new tyres that are being imported will eventually become old, used and pose the same safety and environmental problems cited by the Government.
“It is the working class that will be unduly affected,” she said. “I am aware that improper tyres on a vehicle can create accidents. (But) even the new tyres that are being imported today will one day become old and used and will pose the same safety and environmental problems.”
Claiming that there was no ‘holistic vision’ when the policy was formulated, Dr. Westford stated that owners of new tyres can attest to sub standard tyres being sold on the market. She posited that instead of a ban, measures should be put in place to regulate the importation of used and new tires and for the government to design measures for the disposal of old tyres.
In response to Dr. Westford’s charge, Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson, expressed disappointment that a party, whose leader Bharrat Jagdeo was awarded the title “Champion of the Earth”, could be against an initiative that could impact the environment positively.
Dr. Westford also called for a rethink of the hike in shotgun fees, which was announced in Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan’s budget presentation. She noted that the majority of shotgun users are farmers seeking to protect their produce.
“The Minister has that discretionary power to grant these exemptions,” the Parliamentarian said. “Please don’t throw away the baby with the bath water.”
It was when the former Minister confronted the issue of salary increases for state employees that she was reminded of her alleged transgressions. As she accused the government of dangling a proverbial carrot before the population, Dr. Westford was greeted by cat calls about “$600M carrots.”
“It was shocking for workers when the Minister of Finance announced that public servants will have to await conclusion of discussions with the relevant unions before salary increases,” she said. “Why couldn’t the collective bargaining be completed before the budget presentation? We see the issue of a dangling good life carrot being removed.”
At this point Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo coined the phrase “$600M carrots”, much to the amusement of the House. The laughter on the Government side and the objections on the Opposition side caused Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland, to use his gavel to restore order. Flustered, Westford nevertheless plunged into her presentation.
Questions have been raised about Dr. Westford’s retention on the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) list of Parliamentarians since she was first brought before the courts on charges of attempted larceny, involving the transfer of state owned vehicles to herself, her husband and other alleged co-conspirators. The PPP has, however, stood by its former Minister despite the storm clouds.
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