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…Policy Forum Group warns
Since assuming office in 2020, avenues for influencing decision-making in Guyanese politics have been progressively closed off by the ruling party, Policy Forum Group said as it referenced government’s refusal to heed a petition to halt the passage of the controversial Natural Resources Fund Bill.
The was purportedly passed in the House on Wesnesday night. It gives the President enormous powers, which civil society organisations said is dangerous for such a bill that seeks to protect oil funds from abuse.
In its statement. PFG, which had tabled petition seeking the delay in debating the bill said independent voices are being silenced and professionals replaced by compliant camp-followers. “As a result, institutions such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Guyana Police Force and the State media, while ostensibly still performing their roles, have become arms of the ruling party,” PFG said.
In the same vein, the dismissive Parliamentary treatment of the formal Petition signed by 64 citizens calling for a pause in the consideration of the Natural Resources Act (Amendment) Bill 20 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.
Despite weak Press interest, the Petition served to stimulate similar calls for consultation from other civic groups and major business organizations. 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 group stated.
“It would have been a temporary concession made to the wishes of the people, not the demands of the opposition APNU. No less than the APNU, however, the ruling party strategy preferred to rely on power rather than politics.
The context for the incoherent rage demonstrated by the opposition APNU on the floor of the Convention Centre is that the new Act effectively sees the ruling party becoming the proprietors rather than trustees of the country’s natural resources.” According to PFG the APNU might have been better served by utilising its Parliamentary time to make this point, rather than engage entirely in raucous and disorderly behaviour.
The group said as background to the PPP indefensibly forcing of the Bill through Parliament, it should be borne in mind that not a single consultative process has been conducted by the ruling PPP on the new Act, despite its far-reaching consequences, despite civic opposition and despite having a one-seat majority in Parliament. “Nor, in the same vein, can the ruling party claim any ownership of the widespread consultations that preceded passage of the original NRF Act which they systematically boycotted.”
“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. Much less than consult, not a single article, debate or discussion was made available to defend or explain the intended legislation, introduced to coincide with the Christmas and New Year festivities. 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,” PFG stated.
The group added that press reports did not indicate whether proper Parliamentary procedure was followed by either Party or by the Speaker in disallowing debate on this Bill or in the voting process. “For example, under Parliamentary Standing Orders, Members can only vote when sitting down and MPs failed to do so.”