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The Government has failed to consult with relevant stakeholders before the passage of a suite of major Legislation in Parliament, in breach of the Constitution.
In an undemocratic manner the Government left stakeholders out in the cold before taking the following Bills to Parliament: –
(i) The Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill 2021;
(ii) Law Reform Commission (Amendment) Bill 2020;
(iii) Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control)(Amendment) Bill 2021;
(iv) The Adoption of Children (Amendment) Bill 2021, and
(v) The Hire Purchase (Amendment) Bill 2020
In May 2015 when the APNU+AFC Government took office any thoughts of a “honeymoon period” were shattered by strident calls from certain stakeholders that the Government was breaching the Constitution to wit, Article 13, by taking Bills to Parliament before consulting with the relevant stakeholders.
In particular the Guyana Bar Association (GBA), the Private Sector Commission (PSC), the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI) and the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), who sadly have not found it convenient to call out this Government in similar manner. The other stakeholders included: –
(i) The Berbice Bar Association;
(ii) The People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C);
(iii) The Commissioner of Police;
(iv) The Opposition;
(v) The Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana;
(vi) The Guyana Revenue Authority;
(vii) Bank of Guyana;
(viii) The Director of Public Prosecutions;
(ix) The Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha;
(x) The Guyana Defence Force;
(xi) The Guyana Association of Bankers, and
(xii) The Guyana Insurance Association
The Government’s omission to consult is even more perplexing since Former Attorney General Basil Williams SC, left a comprehensive system of consultations together with an inventory of the relevant stakeholders, with the Attorney General’s Chambers and Ministry of Legal Affairs (AGC. MOLA). The said system included inhouse consultations where stakeholders were given written invitations along with the relevant draft Bill, to attend a consultation in the Chambers’, boardroom
External consultations involved the renting of a public venue and a cybernetic approach between the Attorney General Chambers’ team of Presenters and stakeholders. All consultations were before laying any Bill in Parliament.
The Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Act 2021 involved the question of removing the financial independence of the Judiciary which was restored to them by legislation passed by the APNU+AFC Government in 2015, and therefore demanded wide consultations with stakeholders before passage in Parliament, on the part of this Government.
The Law Reform Commission (Amendment) Bill 2020 seeks to alter a fundamental constitutional regime relating to a process of arriving at a new or substantially altered Constitution, and required wide consultations, but to no avail.
The Adoption of Children (Amendment) Bill 2021 involves the serious issue of reducing international law embodied in the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption into municipal law, and begs for consultation.
These are just a few highlights of the aforementioned Bills that were rushed and jammed through Parliament.
The Failing of the Government is captured in the well-worn aphorism –“whats good for the goose is good for the gander.”
In conclusion, a failure to adhere to transparency in Parliamentary practice and Procedure must lead to a colossal failure of good governance which lends itself to authoritarianism.
Basil Williams SC