Dec 13, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Veteran Trade Unionist, Lincoln Lewis said government’s intention to scrap a 22-member committee to oversee the Natural Resources Fund will open the door for more corruption.
It was Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo who made the announcement last week of the government’s plan. During his address at the 2021 Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Gala last Thursday evening, the Vice President said the 22-member Public Accountability and Oversight Committee will not be featured in the amended legislation, when it is tabled in the National Assembly. “It is almost impossible to operationalize and there are measures there that don’t lend themselves to people understanding how it works,” Jagdeo noted. He said the government will, therefore, make four major sets of changes in the NRF legislation with the first being the removal of the oversight committee consisting of 22 organisations.
The Committee, according to the existing law, was expected to include a representative from civil society organizations and community based organizations, a nominee to represent women with the nominee being nominated by civil society organizations; a nominee of the Bar Association of Guyana; a representative of the Guyana Consumer’s Association; a nominee of the Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a nominee of Transparency International Guyana Inc. (TIGI); a nominee of the Guyana Press Association; a nominee of most representative associations of trade unions; a nominee of the Private Sector Commission, one from each of the 10 Regional Democratic Councils and a nominee from academia who is nominated by the governing council of the University of Guyana.
Writing in his Sunday column in the Village Voice News, Lewis criticised the administration for “uprooting” the part in the law that seeks to ensure accountability, through oversight of the management and utilisation of withdrawals from the Fund.
“Though the move comes as no surprise, given the pervasive corruption under Jagdeo’s presidency, society should be incensed. This amendment is designed to undermine oversight and control to ensure the nation’s resources are managed and distributed in the best interest of all Guyanese. To remove or even reduce the 22-member organisations flies in the face of Article 13 in the Constitution of Guyana,” Lewis reasoned.
Article 13 expressly speaks “…to establish [ing] an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.”
The popular commentator argued, “The Ali/Jagdeo regime is trampling on tenets that would ensure respect for the supreme law, best practices, transparency, and good governance. This is not about the ridiculed ‘academic’ nature of the law; it is about finding a nonsensical reason to remove a sensible approach to governing and oversight”.
In fact, Lewis explained that the mere fact that Jagdeo admits the law reads like an “academic” paper suggests it has the elements required to be implemented. The activist noted that a situation is being created where laws will be amended not for the good of the nation and its people, but rather to serve the interest of a few. “It is evident the government would prefer a partisan, political instrument that will serve only the ruling elite…I have argued before about the need for passing key legislation with more than a simple majority because what will happen is that laws will be changed based on political expediency and not necessarily for the good of the people and nation,” Lewis pointed out.
He said that Guyanese must resist Jagdeo’s “underhand effort” to control the nation’s wealth, through the removal of the committee. In this regard, the Trade Unionist posited that the PPP Government is seeking to develop laws which will serve to weaken and dismantle the oil and gas structure, including undermining whatever revenue could be accrued to the people. “Every day they are moving to topple the guardrails of democracy” and in the midst of a global Pandemic, Lewis urged that Guyanese find ways and means of confronting what he described as “galloping greed, recklessness, and absence of accountability” by the Government.
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