Parliament in historic sitting

Guyana Chronicle
December 5, 2002

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TODAY is very historic in the sense that it would be the first time within recent memory that Parliament has been prorogued and re-assembled on a site other than the national Parliament Building in Brickdam, Georgetown.

"I am advised that since 1947, Parliament has set no other place than the Parliament Building (for a sitting). This would be considered a historic sitting of Parliament at the new site - the Convention Centre of the Ocean View International Hotel on the East Coast of Demerara," Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon said yesterday.

He told his regular post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the President that discussions were ongoing on security and other arrangements that would be related to today's session and "the provision of the conventional amenities to the MPs, the staff, to the Media and to the public".

Luncheon also said the return of the Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) to this historic sitting of the National Assembly "would be most welcome but it is not anticipated".

Luncheon said the venue was changed because of the unavailability of the Parliament Chamber for sitting of the National Assembly because of repairs being carried out to the roof and ceiling of the eastern wing of the Public Buildings.

At today's session, Government will be presenting Bills that address the criminal justice system, including "one for toughening sentences for gun crimes and one for toughening sentences for kidnapping and extortions".

In October, both President Bharrat Jagdeo and Dr. Luncheon announced Government's intention to introduce legislation that will make penalties for gun crimes and kidnapping more stringent. The HPS noted that the recent developments in the crime upsurge locally have made it necessary for the laws to be tightened.

President Jagdeo had noted that the present legislation is inadequate to prosecute such cases and consequently Government has taken the decision to go to the National Assembly to amend the existing legislation.

He also indicated that not only persons kidnapping people or directly involved in gun crimes, but also those acquainted with the criminals, must face the penalty. The Head of State had called on citizens to support this move, since it is in the interest of the nation.

Many groups and citizens have been calling for the administration to introduce stronger legislation to deter serious crimes, the Guyanese Head of State noted, and he hopes these persons and groups' support would be forthcoming when Government moves to Parliament.

Referring to the lack of support for the recently passed anti-crime Bills, President Jagdeo said persons often called for Government to act and when it does, the people remain quiet.

When asked about the procedures of today's sitting, since it would be held at a new venue, the HPS said the special team pursued a survey of the reasonable alternatives and the choice that was made is based on the results of that survey.

"I am advised that the Ocean View Conference Centre was deemed the most suitable and its location provided for conditions that whilst not exactly identical to those enjoyed by Parliamentarians at the current location, offers the best of the rest- or the other alternatives," he said.

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