CARICOM leaders for today's opening of parliament

Guyana Chronicle
May 4, 2001

MEMBERS of the Bureau of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government are due to attend this afternoon's ceremonial opening of the Eighth Parliament of Guyana.

Bureau members, Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados; Mr Hubert Ingraham, Prime Minister of The Bahamas and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines were invited to attend by President Bharrat Jagdeo who is to formally declare the parliament open.

President Jagdeo, prior to addressing the parliament, will inspect a Guard of Honour in the courtyard of Public Building and meet members of the National Assembly who include several new faces.

Prime Minister Basdeo Panday of Trinidad and Tobago and Prime Minister of St Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony who were also invited, could not make it due to prior commitments, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Yesterday, Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr Frank Narain convened a special meeting with the Members of Parliament (MPs) at which they were briefed on important issues and introduced to the staff of the Parliament Office.

The session which was particularly informative for the new MPs, addressed areas such as the composition of Parliament, the life, sessions, prorogation and dissolution; the National Assembly, procedure, sittings, form of dress for attendance; addressing the Chair and Members of the National Assembly; entitlements, salaries, allowances and benefits and relevant documents, the Constitution, Standing Orders, Order Papers, Minutes Bills and Acts.

The Clerk of the National Assembly also pointed out that yesterday's seating arrangement was done in alphabetical order and not necessarily in the order in which the respective parties will require that their members to sit.

With the Clerk was his Deputy, Mr Sherlock Isaacs.

The Eighth Parliament will comprise 65 members with 34 coming from the Government side, the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C); the main Opposition, the People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) (27); the Guyana Action Party/Working People's Alliance (GAP/WPA) (two); Rise, Organise and Rebuild (ROAR) (one) and The United Force (TUF) (one).

Of the 65 members, there will be 20 new faces -- five new Ministers - Ms Carolyn Rodrigues, Minister of Amerindian Affairs; Ms Bibi S. Shadick, Minister in the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security; Dr Jennifer Westford, Minister of Public Service; Mr Clement Rohee, Minister of Foreign Trade and international Cooperation, along with 20 women MPs, the latter in accordance with the reformed Constitution.

PNC/R Member of Parliament, Ms Lurlene Nestor, 28, one of the new faces and representing Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica), has earned the distinction of being the youngest Member of the National Assembly.

Another PNC/R member, Ms Sandra Adams who entered Parliament in 1992 at the age of 27 was previously the youngest.

The Chronicle understands that the late President Cheddi Jagan was the youngest parliamentarian in Guyana's history.

The ceremonial opening of the Eighth Parliament will be preceded by the First Sitting of the National Assembly at which the business will include the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker and the swearing-in of members.

That session is scheduled to commence at 14:00 hrs.

Mr Ralph Ramkarran of the PPP/C is tipped to be Speaker.

Head of the Government business in the National Assembly is Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Reepu Daman Persaud, former Minister of Agriculture who has been functioning in that position since the PPP/C assumed office in October 1992.

Views of new MPs
Following yesterday's briefing, the Chronicle sought comments from a number of the new Parliamentarians. Mr Ravi Dev, MP, Rise Organise And Rebuild (ROAR): "This is my first sitting and under the new Constitution it was mandated that Parliament will have a much larger range of participation, so I am looking forward to participating and in a sense redefining the whole politics of Guyana.

In the past Parliament up to now has been merely a `rubber stamp' for the executive members, but under the new dispensation, Parliament is supposed to play a role in defining policies also.

However, anything new depends on the vigour of the people who are involved in redefining society and how it can take shape."

Ms Lurlene Nestor, MP, (PNC/R), Region Four -Demerara/Mahaica
"I always wanted to represent Guyana at any level and I thank the Lord for getting me this far. I am going to represent the young people and in terms of women I will also represent them in whatever way but I am not a female-biased person.

I will focus on the development and empowerment of young people in general as well as the development of education in Guyana.

I am here to represent Region Four and I hope that Parliament will be less of a talk shop this time around."

Mr Jerome Khan, M.P. (PNC/R)
"There are many issues which the PNC/R feels are burning issues to change the system of governance in this country.

For me, I would like to continue the kind of work that Mr Desmond Hoyte has started to ensure that the systems that we are purporting to change, change, because at the end of the day that is what is important.

I want to be able to do this and I was happy to be at this orientation exercise because it helped me to understand how the National Assembly functions and what are the expectations of us as members of Parliament."

Mr Ramesh Rajkumar, M.P. (Region Six) East Berbice/Corentyne)
"I am from Region Six and represent that constituency.

There are several areas for development which we hope to raise including the deep water harbour and the Berbice River bridge, which are very important and for which we are optimistic.

Apart from that there are some legislative matters which we hope to address some of which may be in the traffic area.

I also want to raise educational issues since I want to see the expansion of our tertiary education and other institutions like the Guyana School of Agriculture which would reduce poverty, and depressed communities.

I will also raise issues of infrastructural developments in that region.

Region Six is at the brink of taking off and it is just a question of having the right people to work towards its development."

Mr Ricky Khan - M.P (Region One (Barima-Waini)
"In any part of the Region be it One, Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni), Eight (Potaro/Siparuni and Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) there are lots of problems facing the hinterland peoples such as communication, transportation and others.

I definitely see my participation as being able to highlight those problems, and seeking to get some attention."

Mr Stanley Ming - M.P. (PNC/R)
"I hope to be able to serve the people I represent, the Guyanese people and that is something I'm looking forward to."

Dr George Norton - M.P. (PNC/R)
"I am happy to be representing the people in Parliament and convinced that this is the forum at which my people ought to be represented. I made efforts at all the other forums before to represent my people, the indigenous people, and I am convinced that this is the most effective forum where issues will be addressed."

Mrs Sheila Holder M.P. (GAP/WPA)
"I am pleased that the opportunity has been presented to me to represent our constituency and in a way the people of Guyana generally.

I am however aware of the fact that with only two of us here it will be a tremendous amount of work, but we are committed to doing our best.

I feel this will be a good opportunity to enlist members of the public to communicate to us their concerns so that we will be better able to represent them."

Ms Shirley Melville M.P. (GAP/WPA)
"I am here most importantly on behalf of my people from Region Nine and I intend to make proper representation on behalf of them at this national level.

We been working over the past years and we've come to realise that there's only so much that one can do at the community level."

Roads to be closed for parliament ceremony
THE Police have announced that roads in the vicinity of the Public Building will be closed to vehicular traffic from 08:00 hrs until the adjournment of Parliament today.