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Yesterday's sitting, which also saw the successful passage of three Bills, was very historic in the sense that it was the first time within recent memory that Parliament was prorogued and re-assembled on a site other than the national Parliament Building in Brickdam, Georgetown.
Gajraj, in introducing the Bill for its first reading in the National Assembly, noted that the Kidnapping Bill is a Bill which provides for "the punishment of the offences of abduction, wrongful restraint and wrongful confinement, for ransom and other related offences and for matters incidental thereto".
The three Bills, which were passed, were the Fiscal Enactments (Amendment) Bill 2002 - Bill No.7/2002; the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2002- Bill No.13/2002; and the Fisheries Bill 2002 - Bill No.8/2002.
The Fiscal Enactments (Amendment) Bill 2002, which was piloted through the National Assembly by Finance Minister, Mr. Saisnarine Kowlessar, is a Bill intituled an Act to amend the Tax Act and the Hotel Accommodation Tax Act 1993.
Kowlessar told the House that this bill sought to amend section 56 of the Tax Act., Chapter 80:01, by reducing the entertainment duty payable on all payments for admission to cinemas. According to him, the duty payable in respect of urban cinemas has been reduced from 25% to 10% while in respect of rural cinemas, it has been reduced from 20% to 5%. He said, too, that the entertainment duty payable on all payments for admission to horse racing entertainment remains at 25% for the municipalities (which include Corriverton, Rose Hall and Anna Regina) and 20% for elsewhere.
The Finance Minister noted that the cinema industry represented a great part of our cultural landscape and provides entertainment and relaxation to our people, particularly in the rural areas.
He, however, pointed out that in recent times the industry has come under severe competition and pressure from other forms of entertainment in Guyana.
"So in an effort to ease that pressure and to assist the industry to regroup and to be able to compete effectively, this measure of the reduction of the tax from 25% to 10 % in urban cinemas and 20% to 5% in rural cinemas, has now been introduced," Kowlessar stated.
This Bill, he said, also sought to amend the Hotel Accommodation Tax Act (No.14 of 1993) to provide for the exemption from the payment of room tax on rooms provided by a hotel where the hotel provides tourism facilities that are deemed by the Minister to be a resort.
"For such tourism facilities to be deemed to be a resort the hotel operator must apply to the Minister...and upon the Minister deeming the said facilities to be a resort, the hotel operator shall be exempted from room tax," the explanatory memorandum to the Bill stated.
According to Kowlessar, the Government has long recognised the potential of the tourism sector as a new growth area and the passage of this Bill "is another tangible demonstration of our government's support to the private sector...".
The Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2002, which was piloted through the National Assembly by Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Harripersaud Nokta, is a Bill intituled an Act to amend the Local Authorities (Elections) Act to provide for the postponement of elections of councillors of local democratic organs.
According to Nokta, this Bill sought to extend the date for the holding of the next local government elections to elect members of local democratic organs. The explanatory memorandum of the Bill noted that local government elections were supposed to have been held at anytime on or before December 1, 2002, but based on this Amended Bill, it "may now be held within twelve months of that date".
"The PPP/C administration stands ready to go to the polls to elect fresh representative for ailing Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and Municipalities. We see this as the way to deepen and broaden local government and to extend and expand the process of democracy," Nokta told the National Assembly.
Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Mr. Satyadeow Sawh piloted the Fisheries Bill 2002 through the National Assembly with good support from his colleague MPs on the Government side, and Ms. Shirly Melville of the Guyana Action Party/Working People's Alliance (GAP/WPA) who was the lone representative from the Parliamentary Opposition, who attended yesterday's sitting - which was the 1st Sitting of the National Assembly of the Second Session (2002) of the Eight Parliament of Guyana.
Meanwhile, the main Opposition People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) continued their boycott of Parliament. Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Ralph Ramkarran read out the names of the PNC/R MPs who requested that they be granted leave from yesterday's sitting.
Ramkarran also read the Proclamation by President Bharrat Jagdeo to prorogue Parliament, to facilitate yesterday's Sitting at the new venue.
"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.
He told his regular post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the President on Wednesday that discussions were ongoing on security and other arrangements that would be related to yesterday's session and "the provision of the conventional amenities to the MPs, the staff, to the Media and to the public".
Both the Speaker, Mr. Ramkarran and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud lauded the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Sherlock Isaacs and the enthusiastic staff of the Parliament Building for their hard work in transforming the Hotel's Convention Centre into something similar to the Parliament Building, thus facilitating the smooth flow of yesterday's sitting. "The atmosphere was quite good and comfortable," Persaud said. The Police Force also provided heightened security for yesterday's sitting with a strong Police presence evident in and around the area. Traffic also had to be diverted along the East Coast Highway.
The National Assembly was adjourned to a date to be fixed.