Marathon debate sets tone for `more openness'
-- Persaud
by Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
February 21, 2003

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`I genuinely feel that that is the route Guyana should take, where we sit, talk, reflect and we reach consensus on issues which affect the well being and welfare of the people of the country in keeping with the general motto that we put Guyana first and the people first' - Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud

MINISTER of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud yesterday indicated that despite the defeat of the Opposition PNC/R motion in the National Assembly after the marathon debate that ended early yesterday morning, the exercise was conducted in a very cordial atmosphere.

It has set the tone for more openness, healthy and constructive discussions and interactions between the parliamentary parties, he said.

Although the Government voted solidly against the 'national crisis' motion submitted by PNC/R (People's National Congress Reform) Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin, it expressed its support for certain aspects (clauses) in it, Persaud explained.

"I thought, in my own view, that the meeting (debate) ended on a good note of cordiality. There was no rancour, acrimony, bitterness; it was a healthy debate with all sides expressing their points of view very openly, very frankly and in some instances, very aggressively," he said.

Persaud was speaking at a news conference he shared with Prime Minister Sam Hinds at the Office of the Prime Minister, Georgetown.

Mr. Hinds said the Government welcomed the move of the PNC/R to return to Parliament by placing the motion as a debatable priority.

The sitting, to debate the Corbin motion, was held at the Ocean View Convention Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, as repairs are continuing on Parliament Buildings.

The Prime Minister expressed regret that both sides failed to have a common agreement on the motion, but felt that an effort was made towards this end.

"We took an even further step, which I think is in keeping with what should happen in this country - to arrange a discussion between the two major parties so that they can look at the amendments which the Government proposed (during the debate)", Persaud said.

"That committee met, did some work, and they have virtually reached agreement on the various clauses and they are working on the other clauses to which they could not have agreed..."

He said the motion submitted by Corbin was a "wide motion" and one that "dealt with many issues".

"It is not one of those normal motions where you deal with one or two items with a limited number of resolve clauses; but there were several issues," he said.

As such, he indicated that although the Government was in agreement with at least two of the clauses, (resolved clauses 5 and 6 which deal with the Parliamentary Management Committees and Constitutional Reform), it could not have voted in favour of the motion since there were other resolved issues/clauses on that same motion.

"It was voted against because it was put as a similar motion - one vote. So in that context, it was voted against," he explained.

He noted, too, that all efforts were made by the Government at reaching unanimity of decisions and having common approaches.

"I genuinely feel that that is the route Guyana should take, where we sit, talk, reflect and we reach consensus on issues which affect the well being and welfare of the people of the country in keeping with the general motto that we put Guyana first and the people first," Persaud stated.

He also noted that during his presentation in the National Assembly, he drew attention to those clauses which the Government had no problem with.

He also lauded the contribution by Corbin during the debate, describing it as "a very good contribution".

"I think we are heading in the right climate and I feel the tone is set for more openness, more discussions, more interactions. And the Government intends, and I also as Minister intend, to continue to be in touch with the Parliamentary political parties and particularly with the PNC/R through its Chief Whip of the Opposition, Mr. Lance Carberry (and) I am sure that the Parliament would have to meet and meet frequently," Persaud asserted.

He indicated, too, that the National Assembly is the forum for ventilating all issues which affect the nation and in that process, there should be no inhibitions.

"We want the Parliament to be deliberative, vibrant, open - and more than that, we want the nation itself to get more involved in the parliamentary process, either by attending or even by looking at the television or reading the press.

"Things are moving very rapidly in the world and we need to keep abreast with developments," Persaud urged.

"In all parliaments of the world, without exception, motions are brought, discussed and ventilated but it doesn't follow that because a motion is brought it will pass.

"But in this case, though the vote did not go favourably to the mover of the motion, there were areas of agreement which were clearly indicated and I think that provides the hope and creates the conditions for further discussions and I want to re-emphasise that we ended on a beautiful note and a high note of understanding and openness from both sides," he said.

Meanwhile, at a news conference the PNC/R called at its Congress Place, Sophia headquarters earlier yesterday, Carberry had a different view from Persaud's regarding the `marathon debate'.

He stated bluntly that the response of the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to the PNC/R's initiative to have the "national crisis" facing Guyana debated in the National Assembly was most disappointing.

According to Carberry, the PPP/C has confirmed what the PNC/R had always claimed - that the PPP/C does not accept the reality that there is a crisis of enormous national proportions confronting the nation.

The debate, he said, also confirmed that "recent mouthings by the Government about their concerns over the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) were no more than a smokescreen to hide their most devious intention of caving into the company responsible for electricity supply in the country."

Carberry also accused Prime Minister Hinds and Minister of Housing and Water, Mr. Shaik Baksh, of appearing during their debate presentation on Wednesday to be more representing the interests of GPL than those of the people of Guyana.

He said the PNC/R has demonstrated sufficiently, its unwavering commitment to put Guyana first and it is now for the PPP/C to act and demonstrate good faith.

"The PNC/R has made it clear to the nation that we are prepared to engage with the PPP/C Administration in a constructive way in an effort to contribute to addressing what we regard as the pressing problems which face our nation," Carberry told reporters.

"We note with sadness for the future of our nation that the PPP/C seems satisfied, like the proverbial ostrich to continue to bury their head in the sand of their continued denial that we are in the midst of a national crises with the potential to have us all embroiled in a national disaster," he asserted.

"We have done our part. There will be no further movement until we see action from the PPP/C," the PNC/R Executive Member added.

He said too that the PNC/R sought to debate, in the National Assembly, what it believed was the "crisis situation evidenced by all of the indications of economic and social collapse which all but the politically blind or blinkered and irresponsible have recognised".

He also contended that the Government, in the debate, took the view through all of their speakers that there was in essence no crisis in Guyana nor in any of the sectors which the PNC/R highlighted in its motion.

Another PNC/R Member of Parliament, Ms. Clarissa Riehl supported Carberry at the news conference and stated that although the almost 12-hour debate gave the PNC/R a chance to ventilate various issues of national concern, it was a "total waste of time".

"We could not but conclude that it was a total waste of time for our going there," she said.

"Of course, we aired these things publicly and at a forum where everybody is saying that we must go back to Parliament; so we did go where we spent (approximately 12 hours there) airing all the issues affecting our country," she said.

She, however, admitted that "there were in fact a few clauses here in the motion which they (the Government) said they agreed to".

She noted that although the Government voted against the motion the PNC/R feels that is the "end-all".

"We are waiting to see if (the PPP/C) would take on board any of these things we are asking (them) to look at," she said.

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