Parliamentary committees are a constitutional right - Hoyte
Stabroek News
December 22, 2001

PNC/R leader, Desmond Hoyte, has taken issue with the assertion by President Bharrat Jagdeo last week that establishment of the parliamentary sectoral committees was a result of concessions by the government.

Hoyte told a press conference yesterday at Congress Place, the PNC/R headquarters, that the parliamentary committees resulted from recommendations from the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) which were in turn adopted by the National Assembly by way of amendments to the constitution.

He also asserted that the "mandate of these Parliamentary Committees is not dependent on PPP/C grace and favour, but is a matter of constitutional right."

The leader of the parliamentary opposition also accused the government of misrepresenting the position of the opposition on how the committees should be constituted. He reiterated the opposition's position that "no minister should sit on them, much less chair them; that at the very minimum, the chairmanship of the committees should be rotated.

"So long as the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility for government's policies and programmes and projects exists, it would be farcical for a minister to sit on a parliamentary committee to review and scrutinize the policies, programmes, and projects of government ministries. We cannot require a minister to pronounce in Parliament on the efficacy or otherwise with which a colleague minister has been carrying out his ministerial functions."

The government has conceded that ministers would not chair any committees but insisted that they should be members, with President Jagdeo pointing out at a press conference last week, that if 17 of his party's members were barred from sitting on the committees, he would not have sufficient members to represent the government on them.

About the chairmanship of the committees, President Jagdeo referred to the US Congress, where he said the party with the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate chaired all the committees and had the majority as well. But Hoyte asserted that the CRC was "a Guyanese instrument which proposed mechanisms and procedures to deal with peculiarly Guyanese problems of governance."