Dec 31, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The PPP indefensibly forcing the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Bill through Parliament was done without a consultative process, despite its far-reaching consequences, despite civic opposition and despite having a one-seat majority in Parliament, and the failure to consult on the new Act is the most egregious violation of the expectation for consultation implied in Article 13 of the National Constitution.
This is the view of a civil society group, Policy Forum Guyana (PFG), which yesterday scolded the government for not only failing to consult the nation on the approved NRF legislation, but also ignoring a petition it made for a pause in the consideration of the Natural Resources Act.
A Petition to Parliament is a device, or method, by which an individual or collection of citizens can appeal directly to Parliament for redress or action on a matter of concern to them. A procedure is laid down to which such a Petition should conform. If successful in surviving scrutiny by the Clerk of Parliament’s office, the Petition is then passed to the Speaker of Parliament. Such a Petition must also be submitted by a single member of Parliament who so indicates in writing to the Speaker and also identifies which of three options he or she wishes the Speaker to take with respect to the Petition: (i) that it be read in Parliament by the Clerk; (ii) that it be printed and circulated to all Members of the House; or (iii) that it be sent to a Select Committee. Finally, the Speaker has the power to accept or reject the Petition.
Between December 12 and 16, 2021, PFG said it convened a Zoom meeting of member organisations where it drafted and approved the Petition. Some 54 signatures were collected and submitted to Parliament.
But between December 20 and 28, petitioners were advised by the Parliament Office of formatting technicalities “which, unlike previous era, are now rigorously enforced” the organisation contended.
Nonetheless, it said that the Petition was re-submitted twice, the second time by the Member of Parliament sponsoring the Petition, Lenox Shuman, and the third time on Tuesday 28 last, when the Speaker required a further hard copy by which time a further 10 signatures had been received.
In a public missive, the civil society body argued, “Since assuming office in 2020, avenues for influencing decision-making in Guyanese politics have been progressively closed off by the ruling party. Independent voices are being silenced and professionals replaced by compliant camp-followers.”
It noted that as a result, institutions such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Guyana Police Force, among others, have become arms of the ruling party.
According to PFG, the dismissive Parliamentary treatment of the formal Petition signed by 64 citizens, calling for a pause in the consideration of the Natural Resources Act of 2021 is a microcosm of what politics in Guyana has become.
“An entirely transparent process, making a modest demand for time to consult, was ignored by the ruling party without explanation…the Petition served to stimulate similar calls for consultation from other civic groups and major business organisations. Resistance to its continuance was sufficiently broad-based that the call in the Petition for the Bill to be sent to a Select Parliamentary Committee would have provided an elegant way out for the ruling party,” the body pointed out.
On the other hand, PFG told the media that no article or discussion was permitted by the administration, which would have allowed for the intended legislation to be properly explained and defended.
“This silence was maintained in Parliament since the presentation by the Minister focused entirely on the weaknesses of the Act he was replacing without a single reference to the content with which he was replacing it,” the group added.
Furthermore, Policy Forum Guyana noted that the call for consultation in the Petition should be sustained by all Guyanese citizens. In fact, PFG is inviting those citizens who have not yet had the opportunity to sign the original Petition to continue to add their names. “Although it would not serve its original purpose, it would serve to maintain focus on the necessity of consultation on the Act.”
Persons wishing to do so may send their names, together with contact mobile/cell number or address to the PFG email address:[email protected] or WhatsApp+592-654-5323.
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