Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
…APNU+AFC boycotts Parliament
…Nandlall says their absence shows support for PPP/C changes to Bill
By Lisa Hamilton
APNU+AFC Members of Parliament (MPs), on Thursday, boycotted the presentation of the Law Reform Commission (Amendment) Bill 2020 which was successfully passed in the National Assembly allowing for greater inclusion of society groups which can positively contribute to law reform.
The amendments were brought by Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall who said that APNU+AFC’s absence represents their unwillingness to publicly support the Bill though they cannot oppose it because it is an improvement on what was previously in place.
“Because they cannot come here and oppose this Bill, they have decided to stay away and I want to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to thank them for their support,” Nandlall said, nonetheless.
According to the AG, the Law Reform Commission set up by the APNU+AFC “existed on paper only” and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has long itched to change this.
He noted that the principal Act was passed in 2016 while the APNU+AFC was in power and, the PPP/C, as then Opposition, welcomed the establishment of such a Commission though it was critical about the appointment process and the manner in which the Commission was constituted. Nandlall said that these concerns were expressed during the Bill’s debate but they were ignored and the Bill was passed.
“In 2017, 2018 and 2019, huge sums of money were budgeted for this Commission. A building was rented for all these years at a cost of $800,000 per month. Ten clerical staff were appointed and paid for all these years. A new vehicle was acquired with a chauffeur hired and this Commission consumed in excess of $100 million dollars but no Commissioner was ever appointed,” the Attorney General stated. This, he continued, constitutes a colossal waste of tax payers’ dollars by the APNU+AFC.
On the contrary, Nandlall said that when the PPP/C took office, immediately he terminated the rental of the building and located another building, free of cost, for the establishment of the Commission.
Speaking further to the PPP/C’s concern with the appointments of the Commission, Nandlall said: “The President [David Granger] made all the appointments after consulting only with his Minster of Legal Affairs. No one else was consulted in the process and all the persons appointed to that Commission were persons possessing legal qualifications only.”
The AG said that the Law Reform Commission the current Administration intends to set up will include input from other sectors of the country to ensure that the law benefits all sections of society. Input, he said, will come from the legal profession, judiciary, private sector, trade union movement, indigenous representative groups, religious organisations and human rights organisations.
On the other hand, former AG, Basil Williams SC has chastised Nandlall in the recent past for telling “half-truths” about the Commission. He said that the APNU+AFC government could not move forward in full-speed with the Commission as it hoped because of its “caretaker status” as a result of the 2018 no-confidence motion.
Furthermore, Williams has stated: “The PPP/C was in a mode of non-cooperation with the government, boycotting Parliament and opposing any major appointments of important Commissions such as the Law Reform Commission whose remit would require all stakeholders to be aboard and our government abided by the outcome of the General and Regional Elections rather than constituting the Commission.”
However, no objections to the amendments to the Bill came from the Opposition during the presentations on Thursday as they were all physically absent.
Additional presentations came from PPP/C MP Alister Charlie who spoke to the importance of having representation from the National Toshaos Council (NTC) on the Law Reform Commission. “Amerindians have the right, as enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana and under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to participate in national decision-making in matters which affect our rights,” he put forward.
Agreeing with him was joinder party representative and Opposition Member, Lenox Shuman. He said that the previous Bill did not include the value of the contribution of indigenous peoples and the amendments will change this.
Minister of Public Service, Sonia Savitri and PPP/C MP, Sanjeev Datadin also threw their support behind the tabling of the Bill. With the House subsequently in full support that the Bill be read a second time, House then resolved into Committee to consider the Bill clause by clause.
With the absence of possible objection from the APNU+AFC, the Bill was read for the third time and the amendments to the Bill were passed into law.