Vol. 29
A Partnership for National Unity expresses its alarm at the reports in the international media that a Guyana-Italy cocaine conspiracy has emerged. Guyanese narco-traffickers are working with Italian Mafiosi. The international media reported that two dozen suspected narco-traffickers linked to the Gambino and Bonanno crime families and the Italian crime syndicate known as Ndrangheta had been arrested earlier this week in New York and Italy during the coordinated AmericanItalian Operation New Bridge. The clans were in the advanced stages of plans to smuggle some 500 kg (1,000 pounds) of pure cocaine from Guyana in South America to the port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria. Italian investigators estimated the street value of the shipment to be US$1 billion. Guyanese recall that the conspiracy began to unravel when the Malaysian news agency Bernama reported that a container from Guyana was intercepted with cocaine in coconut milk in November 2012. Narcotics-trafficking seems to be increasing. The crime is driving this country‘s high rates of money-laundering, gun-running, execution-murders and armed robberies. Violent crime is scaring foreign investors, driving away the educated élite, undermining economic growth and impeding social development. A former Crime Chief warned that ‗execution-type killings‘ – many of which are suspected to be related to the narcotics-trafficking – account for about one-third of all murders. The US Department of State‘s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report − released last year – noted: ―Guyana is a transit country for cocaine destined for the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and West Africa. Cocaine originating in Colombia is smuggled to Venezuela and onward to Guyana by sea or air.

Smugglers also transit land borders with Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname. Cocaine is often concealed in legitimate commodities and smuggled via commercial maritime vessels, air transport, human couriers, or the postal services…” The People‘s Progressive Party/Civic Administration has not seriously confronted the challenge of narcotics-trafficking. It did launch a National Drug Strategy Master Plan nine years ago but allowed it to peter out without being fully implemented. The National Anti-Narcotics Coordinating Secretariat; National Anti-Narcotics Commission; Joint Intelligence Co-ordination Centre; Joint Anti-Narcotics Committee and Regional Anti-Drugs Units — never functioned. The PPP/C administration over the last decade evaded the establishment of a permanent US Drug Enforcement Administration office. Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon once announced that a DEA office in Guyana would be welcome, suggesting that ―certain details‖ had to be discussed before-hand. Then, former Minister of Home Affairs Ms Gail Teixeira kept up the jape by saying that ―talks are ongoing‖ to establish the DEA office. When Mr. Clement Rohee took over the Ministry, he could say only that he ―could not pronounce definitively‖ on the matter. The lucrative narco-trade is said to earn the equivalent of 20 per cent or more of Guyana‘s reported GDP. The lucrative trade, however, also spawns armed gangs which use their wealth to purchase political influence and suborn the security forces in order to protect their trade. Money-launderers associated with narcotics-traffickers also distort the domestic economy by pricing their goods and services below market rates but undermine legitimate businesses. US INCSRs suggest that, throughout Bharrat Jagdeo‘s presidency, there have not been any large domestic seizures of cocaine nor has any important member of a narco-trafficking cartel been punished by a court of law. APNU is alarmed that the recent revelation of the existence of a Guyana-Italy cocaine conspiracy is evidence of a dangerous deterioration in public security. APNU is of the view that the prevalence of narco-trafficking is a direct result of the failure of the Ministry of Home Affairs to implement a credible counter-narcotics strategy, to enforce domestic laws and to bring traffickers before the courts! The current Guyana-Italy cocaine conspiracy confirms that Guyana is drifting towards becoming a narco-state. This must not be allowed to happen.

A Partnership for National Unity firmly denies that the Partnership rejected an offer by President Donald Ramotar to set up a bilateral committee to deal with the Bills not assented to by him and which had been approved by the National Assembly. In a Kaieteur News article dated February 14th 2014, page 17, which states ―APNU rejects Presidents offer to set up bilateral committee,” Kaieteur News attributes these remarks to the Presidential Advisor on Governance, Ms. Gail Teixeira, at a post cabinet briefing on Thursday February 13th 2014. It is apposite to note that in the same article Ms. Teixeira is reported as saying that up to yesterday there was no response from the Political Opposition to a letter sent by President Ramotar to the Leader of the Opposition. APNU has not rejected any offer for bilateral talks on the non- assented bills. In his letter to the President, the Leader of the Opposition was quite clear when he asserted; “we stand ready to meet you as early as possible to discuss, in the spirit of consensus and compromise the issues arising from our concerns.”

International drug arrests…Felix questions Guyana’s intelligence-gathering

By Latoya Giles

Had Guyana‘s intelligence-gathering been functioning effectively, local security officials would have known that persons with Mafia ties were working with drug traffickers here. This is the view of Former Police Commissioner and Shadow Home Affairs Minister Winston Felix, who yesterday questioned the efficiency of the country‘s intelligence gathering in the wake of the massive drug operation that was uncovered by US and Italian operatives. Felix also put forth a number of suggestions that he believes would help improve the present situation. According to Felix, the first recommendation he would put forward is for the internal structures to start functioning. Felix explained that prior to the current Administration taking office in 1992; there was an anti -narcotic drive in the country since around 1988 when the narcotics act was established. He said that structure which was created by the then PNC government, started with the National Drug Enforcement Committee. Along the way, more committees were established which dealt with several issues. According to Felix, not much use was put to these committees and other similar structures down the line.

―I think it is important for them to be put in place so that the work of the various agencies like Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU), Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) can come into one instead of them going in different directions,‖ Felix stressed. Felix added that there is need for the strengthening of the local agencies, with regards to both the technical and the operational aspects. He explained that the technical aspect refers to issues such as aircraft monitoring. The Former Police Commissioner disclosed that so serious is the monitoring criteria that had it been in place, persons would have been able to intercept an aircraft in 1993 which flew straight along the Demerara River and deposited a substantial amount of cocaine at New Lands, beyond Linden. No one knew that the aircraft was in Guyana‘s airspace, Felix said. ―Presently we are in no way different because we cannot determine or identify an aircraft that is in our airspace.‖ Felix noted that the operational aspect also needs to be addressed. He explained that currently the force is going behind the ―husslers,‖ rather than the ―big ones‖ . Also, there is the need for greater collaboration with other international agencies to get information from them. On Wednesday, President Donald Ramotar insisted that Guyana must not and will not become a safe haven for criminals. According to the Head of State, he has instructed the Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee to write to the United States and request information that they probably have. ―We have also extended to them our full cooperation with dealing on the matter. This country will not become a safe haven for criminals,‖ President Ramotar stressed. Opposition Leader David Granger, weighing in on the drug bust said that the creation of a link between local narco traffickers and major international drug lords is more than a dangerous development. On Tuesday last, news surfaced that more than 20 gangsters were busted in New York for drug trafficking and other offences. The New York Mafia reportedly conspired with the Italian syndicate to traffic cocaine and heroin stashed in shipments of pineapples, frozen fish and other food. The shipments traveled through ports in Guyana, where Mexican drug cartel members facilitated deliveries, prosecutors said. The raids targeted a network of drug smuggling that stretched from Guyana to Italy to Malaysia to the United States.

Dr Karen Cummings sworn in as APNU Parliamentarian

…Basil Williams elected Deputy Speaker

There was a major reshuffling in the House yesterday as Dr. Karen Cummings, of the People‘s National Congress Reform (PNCR), took the oath of Office as a Member of Parliament under the auspices of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Basil Williams was elected Deputy Speaker. The newest Member of Parliament was warmly welcomed by Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman, APNU Leader, Brigadier (rtd) David Granger and Prime Minister Samuel Hinds. Prior to the swearing in by the Clerk of the National Assembly, Trotman formally informed the House of the resignation of former Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deborah Backer. According to Trotman, when he was informed of Backer‘s resignation he called on the representative of the list, for APNU, Bhiswaishwar ‗Cammie‘ Ramsaroop, to extract a name from that list to be placed the seat left vacant. He said that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) yesterday morning informed him that Dr. Karen Cummings would be the person to fill the vacant seat. Leader of the political Opposition, in welcoming the newest Member of Parliament, told the House, that the representative comes with a wealth of experience in the medical field and expressed his confidence in her. He said that even though the shoes of Backer would be hard to fill, Dr. Cummings‘ expertise and commitment will more than compensate in seeking the development of the people of Guyana. Prime Minister Samuel Hinds also had warm words of welcome for Dr. Cummings. Dr. Cummings later told media operatives that she was delighted to know that the leading opposition party is committed to gender equity and women empowerment and women climbing the economic pyramid. She said that she looks forward to the deliberations in the House particularly as it relates to constitutional reform and looks forward to making a positive contribution and a meaningful input. She said that as it relates to her pursuits in the House, like her party mantra she too wants good governance and a good life for all at the national level. Following the swearing in of the Member of Parliament, Speaker Trotman reminded the House that there must be a Deputy Speaker elected as soon as possible. Backer who resigned was elected the Deputy Speaker of the House when the 10th Parliament was opened. Opposition Chief Whip, Amna Ally, informed Speaker Trotman, that APNU would like to nominate Shadow Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams, for the post, which it did.

The nomination was seconded by Dr. Rupert Roopnarine and when there were no other nominations presented to be considered for the post, Williams was declared Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. The changes in the House yesterday also included a few promotions. APNU‘s Ronald Bulkan was notably promoted from the backbench to the front bench in the rank and file while Vanessa Kissoon was sent to the backbench of her party‘s seating arrangement. Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Jennifer Webster, was also promoted to the front benches. She was moved to the seat once occupied by the then Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud. He resigned his post as Minister effective January 31 last and while he remains a Member of Parliament was noticeably absent from the sitting yesterday.

Backer’s resignation a ‘serious blow’…new Deputy Speaker to again come from Opposition benches – Granger
Kaieteur News, February 8, 2014 The resignation of Deborah Backer, from Parliament and not the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) as was inadvertently reported yesterday by this publication; is being seen as a serious blow to A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), of which the PNCR is the largest faction. This is according to Leader of both the PNCR and APNU, Brigadier (rtd) David Granger, who yesterday confirmed the resignation and said too that a replacement has not yet been formally identified. The resignation took effect yesterday, according to Granger, who said that he received the letter on Thursday last and a copy was forwarded to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman. Backer was the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister and also served as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. Granger said that the coalition is yet to formally decide on who they would nominate to be elected as Deputy Speaker, only to say that it would be from the Opposition benches. Government has continuously lamented this position, arguing that it is a contravention for the governing party to be given the position of Speaker and the Opposition was only entitled to the position of Deputy Speaker. Prior to Backer‘s resignation, both portfolios were held by ranks in the Opposition and according to Granger, this status quo will continue. Meanwhile, asked about who will assume the portfolio of Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Granger said he has some formal training in international relations along with Member of Parliament, Africo Selman, and as such in the meantime the two of them will shoulder the responsibility of the portfolio. As it relates to shifts in the seating arrangement in Parliament, given that Backer was a front bencher, Granger said that Ronald Bulkan, who is the Shadow Minister with responsibility for Local Government and Regional Development will be promoted and moved to the front line in the Parliamentary rank and file.

Granger said that Backer did not indicate any role for herself as it relates to her future and the party. As it relates to her replacement, Granger reminded that Backer held a seat in Parliament on behalf of the PNCR and as such her replacement would have to come from that party. ―Her seat is a PNCR seat, but she had not indicated a role (in the party)…she does not hold an executive position in the party hierarchy at this point in time,‖ said Granger. As it relates to the replacement, he said that one has not been identified as yet. ―We have a caucus with the party leaders and a replacement would be nominated.‖ This publication understands that it is the former Chairman of the PNCR, ‗Cammie‘ Ramsaroop, who ultimately makes the decision on her replacement, as he is the representative of the list of candidates. Granger did not disclose the shortlist of persons being assessed for the position saying that it would be prejudicial, ―as only one can be selected.‖ Meanwhile, in giving his take on the resignation of Backer, the Opposition leader said that ―it is a serious blow, she was respected.‖ Granger divulged to the media that Backer was his main advisor on Standing Orders, which are the rules and procedures of Parliament. He described her as an industrious and very careful researcher, a good lawyer and a good political worker. ―She will be greatly missed and we hope she recovers from her present illness and be able to rejoin us in another capacity.‖ Asked about the nature of her illness, Granger said that it was not for him to disclose and further, he was not informed of it. He said that in her resignation letter, Backer did not identify what her illness was. What he did say is, ―I know she is receiving a regimen of treatment.‖ Backer fell ill in the latter part of last year and had to be hospitalized locally after which she was flown to a Florida Hospital. Backer, was the serving Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, is also a well known Attorney-at-Law. She obtained her Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad in 1983 and a Bachelor of Law from the University of the West Indies in 1981. Backer is a member of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) and Vice-Chairman of the Peoples National Congress Reform. She has been a Parliamentarian since 1997 and had also served on the Georgetown City Council in 1994. Backer is also a serving member of a number of important organisations such as the Lions Club International and is currently an organising member of the Women‘s Millennium Caucus.

Anti Money Laundering legislation…APNU to further reduce powers of Ministers

…also amends Principal Act to allow search/seizures not only at ports of entry

If Minister Anil Nandlall recognised the need to reduce the power of Ministers under the amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill, A Partnership for National Unity‘s, Joseph Harmon, says ―we must also be able to make changes too.‖

Harmon was speaking to this publication following Saturday evening‘s meeting of the Special Select Committee, and said that APNU believes that there is still too much draconian power in the hands of the Ministers and they will be looking to have these reduced as well. Harmon reminded that when the recommendations had first come to Guyana, Nandlall was of the opinion that none of the recommendations were to be touched as they had been handed down from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF). This position by Nandlall, Harmon noted, has changed. The same day Nandlall indicated by way of a statement that there is no different regime of powers resided in any officer in the Guyana legislation which are not given in similar legislation which is extant in countries across the globe. ―In fact, I refined many of the recommendations which came from the CFATF from which the Bill was coined with a view of reducing certain powers which were recommended to reside with Ministers in the Bill.‖ He cited an example, in the CFATF recommendations, the Attorney General was to have powers to instruct a commercial bank to freeze any account held at that bank which the Attorney General has reasonable suspicion to believe contains proceeds of crime. ―I refined that recommendation to say that the Attorney General must apply ex parte to a judge for an order to freeze the account, and must be able to satisfy that judge that he has credible and reasonable basis to suspect that the account contains proceeds of crime,‖ said Nandlall. According to Nandlall, ―I specifically, shifted that power from the Attorney General to a Judge, because I believe that the Executive branch of Government should not enjoy such plenitude of power over the citizenry as there would be a likelihood of abuse.‖ APNU holds the position that despite this move by Nandlall, there are several other recommendations that still give the Ministers too much power that can be abused. Meanwhile following Saturday‘s meeting, Harmon, said that there is now significant progress being made at the level of the Committee and pointed to the fact that apart from the previous position held by Chairperson of the Committee, Gail Teixeira, that they were to only address the Bill and not the substantive Act, this too has now changed. Harmon said that according to the Substantive Act, Customs and the Financial Intelligence Unit were only allowed to make and effect search and seizures at the ports of entry and dealt only with import and export.

According to Harmon, there is money laundering within the boundaries of Guyana and as such the authorities should be able to target those as well. He said that to limit this authority to just exports and imports into Guyana was not enough in the fight against Money Laundering. Harmon told this publication that on Sunday (yesterday) when the Committee would have met again, APNU‘s Finance spokesperson would have presented the text of the amendments to the committee for adoption. Harmon said too that another meaningful change that the Committee would be effecting is that only very senior ranks should be allowed to conduct searches and seizures of money with entities and persons in Guyana. APNU Executive Member said that this removes the possibility of a junior rank such as a police constable seizing people‘s money under the guise of anti money laundering. This he said must only be done by these senior ranks and FIU officials, among others. But the move to also amend the existing substantive Act along with the CFATF recommendations is not sitting well with the Government. Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, speaking with the state media following the meeting on Saturday, bemoaned the actions by the Opposition as more delaying tactics at the eleventh hour. Parliament will meet today but it is unclear whether the Bill will be returned to the House, even as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) also begins its review in Paris, France. Dr. Singh told the state media that the move to also amend the Substantive Act is a blatant and undisguised attempt to frustrate the passage of the Bill and that it must be condemned. Meanwhile, Harmon in his update of the work of the Committee said that amendments will also be made to the sections to deal with the Financial Intelligence Unit as it relates to its composition and the appointment of its members among other facets of its operations.

Current Money laundering amendments give Ministers outrageous powers… Executive obligated to treat the legislative branch respectfully- Granger
Kaieteur News, February 8, 2014 Proposals put forward in the current Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill, are dangerous in that it places enormous enforcement powers on Ministers of Finance and Legal Affairs; responsibilities which should be with institutions such as the Guyana Police Force. ―The Minister can have you arrested, the Minister can have your house searched,‖ according to Leader of the Political Opposition, David Granger, who yesterday met with members of the media and said that some of the powers proposed for the Ministers in the Bill, ―are outrageous.‖

Granger further charged that as it relates to voting on the Bill in the Full House, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) ―is not prepared to go ahead on measures introduced by the Executive branch unless it respects the Legislative branch and facilitates the passage into law of some of the measures already approved by the Legislative branch.‖ Granger was adamant that the Legislative branch is not going to be toyed with. ―We are not going to deliberate on matters and have those matters brushed aside…the Executive have an obligation, they not doing us a favour, they have an obligation to treat the Legislative branch respectfully.‖ Granger was at the time being time being grilled by media operatives on the positions taken on the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill, currently at a Special Select Committee. While Granger would not tie himself to a commitment to missing the upcoming Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) review, he said that ―we are working to ensure that the Bill that is before the Select Committee is cleaned up and brought back to the National Assembly…from the start we said however long it takes.‖ According to Granger, ―as far as we are concerned it is dangerous to proceed with a badly drafted Bill.‖ Asked what would be the fate of the Bill when it is taken back to the House, he reminded of his letter to the President and said, ―When it comes to the National Assembly, the popular vote will determine the outcome.‖ Granger said ―we are committed to a clean Bill…as far as my letter to the President is concerned, I did say APNU‘s support for certain legislative measures introduced by the Executive branch would be dependent on the Executive‘s assent to legislative measures which were passed by the National Assembly.‖ On the matter of deadlines, the Opposition Leader said that they have heard of many in the past and that it should be borne in mind that the Government of Guyana under the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) has had Anti Money Laundering legislation for 14 years. ―Everybody is now talking about deadlines, this matter only came to the National Assembly in April last year.‖ He pointed out that ―nobody is talking about what has been happening between 2000 and 2013.‖ According to Granger, APNU can produce numerous articles and reports from the United States Department of State criticizing Guyana‘s failure to implement the Anti Money Laundering laws, ―not a single prosecution.‖ Granger said that APNU understands the importance of Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of terrorism. ―We took this matter seriously from the first time it was brought before us…It is not an easy matter… it is not a matter of approving anything that was put on the table.‖

According to the Opposition Leader, ―it is a matter of making sure the people of Guyana were protected against draconian legislation which could harm their human rights and at the same time persons who are inclined to laundering money would be prevented from doing so and would be punished if caught.‖ Granger was adamant that the existing Anti Money Laundering legislation which has been in existence since 2000, had been ineffectively enforced and as such ―APNU felt it was their duty to ensure that the Special Select Committee did its work thoroughly without being rushed and without being forced to impractical deadlines.‖ He noted that dossiers have been prepared by individuals such as Professor Clive Thomas, Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram, Former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran and the Bar Association among others. ―Those submissions are important submissions and I am very glad that we did not rush ahead and ignore those submissions…the submissions will contribute to giving the people of Guyana a clean anti money laundering Bill.‖ Meanwhile, as it relates to the pleadings by bodies such as the Private Sector Commission (PSC) among others, Granger said ―We are not ignoring any advice, there is a committee considering all of the advice.‖ He was adamant that the most important thing for the Guyanese people now, 14 years after the first Money Laundering legislation would have been signed into law, is to have a clean and effective Bill and ensure that there is a mechanism in the form of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) capable of enforcing the law. ―Nobody is going to be fooled by legislation; they want to see enforcement,‖ said Granger and reminded that there has been no enforcement over the period 2000 to 2013. Meanwhile, by way of a joint statement yesterday, the American, British and Canadian embassies said that their governments are, and will continue to be, actively engaged to support effective implementation of the legislation and prosecution of money launderers and financers of terrorism. ―We encourage all stakeholders to work together to finalize Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism legislation and ensure its effective implementation in order to prevent and combat money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as to avoid the serious consequences that would arise from black-listing by the CFATF.‖

Granger maintains position that CJ’s Budget Cut ruling is flawed

“The Chief Justice is not divine, he is not omniscient and he could have very well made a mistake.” ―A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) does not seek premature election; we are looking forward to a full term for tenth Parliament, the life of which will come to an end in 2016. In the mean time we are going to take every reasonable measure to ensure that the country is properly governed and if it means going to a national election we will go to a national election.‖

This is according to Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, Brigadier (rtd) David Granger, who on Friday maintained that ―we are not going to put up with the sort of lawlessness that has been threatening this country for the last 20 years.‖ Meanwhile, as it relates to the imminent budget debate and deliberation, Granger maintained that the recent ruling by Chief Justice (Ag), Ian Chang, has not changed the policy of APNU as it relates to how it will treat with the National Estimates. ―We do not feel the ruling is applicable to internal workings of the National Assembly. We have Standing Orders which have the force of law and we feel that we will continue to behave as we have behaved in the past.‖ Granger told reporters that ―if a matter is brought before the National Assembly and we are asked whether we disagree or we agree, whether we approve or disapprove, the members of the National Assembly will vote in accordance with the interest of the country, if we disapprove we will say we disapprove.‖ According to Granger, ―I would like to see which court would convert a disapproval by National Assembly into approval…I would like to see which court will convert 33 votes into 32 votes.‖ The Opposition Leader is adamant that the court has no jurisdiction to rule on certain internal matters affecting the National Assembly. Speaker, Raphael Trotman, will determine what those matters are. Granger posited that it is possible that the Chief Justice might be unfamiliar with some aspects of Parliamentary Management and Administration and it is possible that he might have erred. ―The Chief Justice is not divine, he is not omniscient and he could have very well and made a mistake,‖ the Opposition Leader suggested. ―What I know is that when a matter is brought before the National Assembly and the Speaker puts a question to us, we will vote, and if the Speaker asks us if we approve or if we disapprove we will record that approval or disapproval.‖ Asked about voting down the entire Budget, thus forcing fresh General Elections, Granger explained that that is not how the process works. He said that the estimates are presented item by item in the Committee of Supply and at the end of the process the Appropriation Bill is voted on. Granger said that, the Appropriation Bill is the sum total of approvals in the Committee and that the Finance Minister cannot bring a Bill and include those items that would have been voted down. ―We will not approve an Appropriation Bill if we don‘t approve of it,‖ warned Granger.

Local Government Bill…APNU willing to relinquish conditions requested
Kaieteur News, February 8, 2014 Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams of the political coalition, A Partnership for National Unity has expressed that his party is willing to relinquish the provisions they had requested in the Local Government Bill which President Donald Ramotar had refused to assent to and had sent back to the Parliament on the basis of unconstitutionality. The Attorney at Law informed however, that APNU has been unable to make this position pellucid as the Bill has not been brought to the National Assembly. The Member of Parliament made this disclosure during a press briefing held on Thursday last at its head office on Hadfield Street. The Shadow Minister reminded that the President had assented to three of the four Local Government Bills. Those assented to are the Fiscal Transfers Bill 2012, Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill and the Local Government Commission Bill. The Bill not assented to, was the Local Government (Amendment) Bill. Williams noted that the Leader of APNU, Brigadier (rtd.) David Granger had written to President Donald Ramotar stating that their support from certain Bills will be withheld if he (President Ramotar) does not assent to certain Bills and operationalise the ones that were assented to. He added, ―We also said that the constitution says that if you don‘t assent to a Bill you must give reasons. So what has happened to those Bills that he has non-assented to and sent back? They were not brought back to the Parliament. It was supposed to be so according to the procedures and we would make an assessment of what he has said.‖ ―We (APNU) believe that he (the President) does not have the power to decide what‘s constitutional and what‘s not but that aside, it has to be sent back to us.‖ The lawyer noted that the provision requested by the joint Opposition to the Amendment Bill was one which stated that a Minister could not have the power to take over a local democratic organ and that such power should be vested in the Local Government Commission. The APNU Member said that the coalition has no problem in relinquishing the provisions they had asked for but added, ―how can we let them know our position if they don‘t bring it back to the assembly?‖ ―We had three provisions but we won‘t break a lance over those provisions. We could eliminate those provisions. We are saying that the Minister should have no power to take over no local democratic organ power and it should be in the Commission but equally the Commission doesn‘t need that power, so the three provisions the Government spoke to we don‘t have a problem with relinquishing it.‖

Granger: Opposition has delivered change
Stabroek News, February 9, 2014 By Oluatoyin Alleyne The opposition has brought about real change, according to Opposition Leader David Granger, who says there has been a strengthened National Assembly and greater scrutiny of the executive despite constraints. Granger does not believe that the opposition has scuttled the opportunities presented by its oneseat majority in the National Assembly after the last general elections but charged that one must first look at the context in which the 10th Parliament began, with the biggest issues being the National Assembly having little autonomy because of the PPP/C‘s previous majority and diminished level of accountability by ministers. The opposition has been criticised by many who have charged that it has not strategically utilised its one-seat majority and that there is little or no progress in any of its initiatives, resulting in no benefits for those who would have voted for them. But Granger, who spoke to the Sunday Stabroek recently in a wide ranging interview, said that for a proper assessment of the opposition‘s performance over the last two years one would first have to examine the landscape that existed at the beginning of the 10th Parliament. He charged that there was little autonomy in the National Assembly because of the majority that the ruling party enjoyed before the November 28, 2011elections. He said the PPP/C had been in government with a parliamentary majority for 20 years and during that time there were widespread abuses, including the ―demolition of the role of the National Assembly in which it could have been felt that the Parliament Office was almost being run as a department of the Office of the President.‖ Granger also pointed out that APNU only has 26 seats, while the AFC has seven and so while combined they have a majority, it is held by two separate entities. ―We have to negotiate before we vote together. So given those two considerations, that the opposition is really made up two different parties, APNU and AFC, and that the landscape was essentially unfavourable, we had to do a lot of groundwork in order to make progress,‖ Granger said. That being said, Granger, who is the leader of both APNU and its main constituent the PNCR, believes that ―a lot of progress has been made‖ and first among these was the building up of the National Assembly to the point where the Attorney-General Anil Nandlall has had to take him to court four times, including in regards to reduction of the 2012 budget. Granger, however, noted that the decision in the case delivered by acting Chief Justice Ian Chang has been criticised as it appears to intrude on the autonomy of the National Assembly. In his recent decision, Justice Chang declared that the National Assembly acted ―unlawfully and unconstitutionally‖ by effecting cuts to the 2012 budget estimates, after finding that its power is limited to either giving or withholding approval. According to Justice Chang, while the Assembly may approve or not approve the Finance Minister‘s estimates of expenditure, it has no power to change them by either reducing or increasing them.

Granger said the other cases in court clearly demonstrate that the executive branch wants to challenge the authority of the legislative branch. Asked how soon an appeal would be filed against Chang‘s decision, Granger noted that he was excluded from the case by Chang and while this decision has been appealed, he is no longer an interested party and cannot file an appeal to the final ruling. However, he said he understands that Speaker Raphael Trotman will file an appeal against the ruling and in the event that his own appeal of his exclusion is successful, they can then seek to have the matter re-committed. Nevertheless, Granger also argued that accountability of government ministers has been ―markedly enhanced‖ because the ministers are now called upon to answer questions in greater detail and provide more information for the financial papers. ―It is a refreshing difference,‖ he said. And when measuring the success of the opposition, Granger said it must first be understood that the opposition is not the government and persons should not run away with the idea that because APNU and the AFC have the one-seat majority they can do anything. ―In fact, the role of the opposition has been defined by convention and by statue in the British parliamentary system and there are serious limitations to what the opposition can do, particularly in the area of finance,‖ Granger said. He added that while many have expectations, the opposition cannot take financial papers to the National Assembly but has to wait until a measure has been brought and having been brought it can use its voting power to amend but not increase expenditure. When it was pointed out that the budget cuts have not been effective, that there has been no marked increase in public servant wages and the Public Procurement Commission is still to be activated, Granger again reminded that the landscape was not ideal and that the opposition could not take any financial papers to the Assembly. On the issue of public servants‘ wages, he said that it is one thing for APNU to declare 2014 the year for workers but the combined opposition had appealed during the 2013 budget for increases for public servants and he has made statements in support of the Guyana Public Service Union calling for the government to sit down with the union and arrive at an outcome which is favourable to both sides. ―The opposition cannot be blamed for that [public servants not receiving significant salary increase] because we have done what is legally possible to bring about change in that regard,‖ Granger stated. ‘Constrained’ Meanwhile, Granger said that the opposition is constrained by not having ready access to counsel who is trained in drafting bills and this is a hindrance to it bringing bills to the National Assembly. ―We are not the government. We do not have the resources to draft bills,‖ Granger said, adding that the absence of counsel has been a major stumbling block to the opposition drafting bills.

He added that when the opposition has succeeded in drafting and passing bills, the government has resisted them. President Donald Ramotar even before seeing the bills declared that he would not assent to bills in which the executive has not had input. Granger pointed out that the opposition does not have the staff, experts or a large body of civil servants at its disposal and that has been another constraint. But in light of these challenges, he believes the opposition has still made progress because they have been able to ―tap into expertise and when measures are brought before us which we feel are opaque…we have been able to get advice or recommendations from stakeholders and from civil society.‖ He said the advice given informed their decisions on the now almost dead Amaila Falls project and advice was also received on the Skeldon Sugar Factory and the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. Former government minister Dr Henry Jeffrey, who had endorsed APNU during the last elections, has recently accused APNU of adopting useless strategies, such as the call for the enhancement of the city and a social contract. Asked about recent criticisms, Granger noted that the partnership is governed by what is the public interest. He revealed that the partnership meets as a Cabinet and receives advice and considers the problems facing them. Jeffrey, who made his criticisms in his weekly column in the Stabroek News, had also suggested that the partnership consider other actions, such as protests, but Granger said they do not believe the time is right for that. Even though Jeffrey criticised the call by APNU for a social contract as a means of attaining an inclusionary democracy, Granger said the partnership feels there is an opportunity and an opening for labour, government, opposition, private sector and civil society to sit together and make the present dispensation work. He said the social contract strategy should be given a chance to work. ―Simply going on the streets will not solve City Hall‘s problems but we need, as a nation, to combine the energies of government, opposition, labour, employers and civil society to hammer out a social contract so that over the next two years or more of the life of the 10th Parliament we can work in a consensual way,‖ Granger argued. ‘Has not failed’ Asked what were the major failures of APNU and the joint opposition, Granger said that partnership has not failed and that it is the executive branch of government which has been recalcitrant and which has failed to behave in a publicly responsible manner. He pointed out that APNU has embraced the education system, employment for young people, and public security, among others, which he said all signify failures on part of the government. ―In keeping with the role of the opposition to scrutinise and to demand actions on the part of the government, APNU has stood out and APNU has brought about real change,‖ Granger said. He further said that he could not think of any policy line that APNU has followed which was not in the public interest and which could be said to have failed and according to him the ―partnership has had a positive two years.‖

Meanwhile, Granger said the joint opposition has not had consultation about the upcoming budget because there is no budget before them. When this is unveiled, he said, they would ―collaborate and cooperate on a strategy.‖

Visit our website for more information—www.apnuguyana.com or follow us on facebook-APNU GUYANA and twitter-APNUGuyana

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful