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…despite decision to challenge ‘legality’ NRF Act
The Opposition will submit nominees to sit on both the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Board of Directors and the Public Accountability and Oversight Committee, notwithstanding its decision to legally challenge the ‘legality’ of the NRF Act, which was rammed through the National Assembly last December amid much chaos and confusion.
This is according to the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Aubrey Norton.
“We believe that the [Natural Resource Fund] Act was not legally passed but we are also politicians who live in the real world; the PPP is not a democratic party that will be responsive to concerns of people, so they are going to go ahead. Now, in the circumstance, we’ve got to ensure that we have people there to scrutinize what is happening and in that regard, we have agreed that we will nominate people but while at the same time, doing it under protest…,” Norton told reporters during a PNCR press conference on Tuesday in response to a question posed by the Village Voice News.
PNCR forms a major part of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition, which occupies 31 seats in the National Assembly.
According to Section 5 (1) of the National Resource Fund Act, the NRF’s Board of Directors shall comprise not less than three and not more than five members who shall be appointed by the President, one of whom shall be appointed Chairperson by the President.
Section 5 (2) adds: “The Directors shall be selected from among persons who have wide experience and ability in legal, financial, business or administrative matters, one of whom shall be nominated by the National Assembly and one of whom shall be a representative of the Private Sector.” The Legislation makes similar provisions for appointments to the Public Accountability and Oversight Committee.
At the level of the Parliamentary Committee of Appointments, the Government has proposed three nominees: Businessman and former PNC Parliamentarian, Dunstan Barrow; former Deputy Commissioner General at the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Clement Sealey and Guyana’s former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Hamley Case – for consideration.
During last week’s meeting of the Committee of Appointments – the Opposition Members of Parliament reportedly indicated that before nominees are considered for submission to the National Assembly, the positions should be publicly advertised with clear criteria before a selection is made. But it would appear that the Opposition’s position has since been shifted to allow for nominations.
However, the Opposition, according to Norton, is still considering its nominees. He declined to weigh in on the nominees proposed by the Government but said it is the belief of the PNCR that Directors and Board Members should be professionals who are politically independent.
Norton, who is the Opposition Leader in waiting, said it is important to be represented on the Board and the Committee.
“If we leave you the Natural Resource Fund without scrutiny, one, you will be excluding yourself from knowing what is happening, and two, you will be making the ground much easier for the PPP to not only continue to expand its corruption. So we have taken a pragmatic approach, which says, we will challenge it, we will argue that it hasn’t been legally passed …but in the interest of the people of Guyana, we will scrutinize and monitor to ensure we can contribute to a reduction in PPP corruption,” Norton iterated.
According to him, the coalition is actively compiling a case against the Government with regards to the legality of the NRF Legislation.
“First of all we believe that the Natural Resource Fund [Act] was rammed through the Parliament; we believe that there wasn’t adequate consultation; we also believe that in the absence of the mace, it could not have been legally passed, and therefore, as far as I know, work is still being done to put together the entire case to challenge it,” he said.