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—calls for widespread consultations
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), Mr. Lenox Shuman said he is opposed to the new Natural Resources Fund (NRF) Bill which is slated for debate in the National Assembly tomorrow.
He said he will vote against it, noting that the Bill is flawed in that it vests the power in the President to appoint the members of the new Board, which will replace the 22-member oversight committee, established under the current legislation by the Coalition Government.
He explained, “The country should be aware that that Board of Directors will all be from one political party, that you will not have any objective oversight over it, and even when it comes down to the Parliament, it will come back to their control since they have the majority”.
In fact, the Deputy Speaker believes that the Board members should be appointed by the National Assembly, to allow for transparency and better accountability. “Every single person who should be on the Board of Directors should be given an opportunity to be questioned in front of Parliament and for them to be confirmed by at least two thirds of Parliament, similar to what the US does with the Supreme Court nominees,” the Opposition MP pointed out.
Additionally, Shuman pointed out that the new NRF Bill allows for members of the board to be appointed on a two years contract, with the possibility for renewal; however it fails to clarify whether these appointees can serve for more than two years consecutively or remain a “lifetime appointee”.
In the past, Shuman has used his one seat in Parliament to side with the Government on proposed legislation. The new proposed legislation has come in for criticisms from not only the Opposition, but from members of civil society as well.
In fact only recently, Dr. Jerry Jailall, a Canadian-based Guyanese in a letter to Kaieteur News said, “The NRF is too important for the Government to rush through without discussions with the parliamentary Opposition, which represents almost half of the population. The PPP justifiably leveled such a criticism against the PNC for unilaterally and secretly signing a giveaway oil contract without the involvement of Parliament or the public. Now the PPP must not act unilaterally, force-feeding its NRF Bill on the nation without wide public consultation”.
He added, “I warn the PPP not to repeat the mistakes of the PNC that caused them to be in the Opposition benches now. We need a new era of governance where big deals involving our national natural resources must be discussed, debated and decided by the entire Parliament and civic society stakeholders, because as we have seen with the bad oil contract, the actions of one Government can bind the actions of a successor Government to the detriment of the nation. The PPP has a historic opportunity to change the paradigm of governance”.
A New and United Guyana (ANUG) which forms part of the joinder party being represented by Shuman in Parliament in a press statement knocked the highly controversial Bill, saying Government’s intention is to use its majority in Parliament to amend the Petroleum Legislation to remove meaningful safeguard will only result in a spending spree.