Last minute hitch to PNCR Parliament return
Inquiry into police force remains final obstacle
By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
May 1, 2003

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The delay in reaching agreement on the issues that would allow the PNCR parliamentarians to attend tomorrow’s sitting of the National Assembly is beginning to perturb PNCR leader Robert Corbin.

The latest delay is to allow the government to receive the benefit of the comments of the police hierarchy on the setting up of an inquiry into the operations of the Police Force. It had been announced that the just-concluded Annual Police Officers’ Conference would discuss the issue. But it was not discussed and no explanation was given. A small team of officers is due to look at the issue today. Should the comments be received on time, Stabroek News understands that there is still a possibility that the two sides could meet before tomorrow’s sitting. It is not clear however if it could be held in time for the PNCR to be represented at the swearing-in of the members already appointed to the Ethnic Relations Commission. That ceremony is to take place at the Office of the President.

This is the only outstanding issue on the menu of concerns the two sides have raised during the past two weeks and Corbin told Stabroek News that he is impatient with what seems to be the PPP getting up to its usual antics to delay the realisation of functioning parliamentary democracy.

He pointed out that the discussions had started two weeks ago and the government had every opportunity to conclude all the necessary consultations. He added that the setting of tomorrow for the National Assembly to meet was an indication to the PNCR that the issues would be cleared. A source knowledgeable about the government’s consultations with the interested bodies said that the delay was unintentional and certainly not an indication of bad faith on the part of the government.

The two sides are already near agreement on the composition of the parliamentary sector committees save for minor details which informed sources say should not detain them long.

On the Order Paper for tomorrow’s sitting of the Assembly is a motion seeking approval for the establishment of a Parliamentary Management Committee which would consider and decide on matters relating to the business of the National Assembly and such other matters as the committee may wish to consider and those matters referred to it by the National Assembly.

The two sides agreed on the establishment of this committee, which is to be chaired by the Speaker and in his absence the Deputy Speaker. The chairman of the committee will have neither an original nor a casting vote and both government and the parliamentary opposition are equally represented.

The motion seeks approval for the establishment of a committee to undertake consultations with the various entities to be represented on the Police, Public, Teaching and Judicial Service Commissions as well as the consensual mechanism to be used by parliament in nominating persons to sit on the Ethnic Relations Commis-sion, the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission, the women and Gender Equity Commission and the Rights of the Child Commission. It is also seeking approval for the committee to nominate five members of the Public Procurement Commission who should have expertise and experience in procurement, legal, financial and administrative matters based on the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee. The National Assembly will be required to approve the nominations to the Public Procurement Com-mission by a two-thirds majority.

This motion is expected to run into fierce criticism from the Guyana Public Service Union as it omits the Federated Union of Govern-ment Employees (FUGE) as one of the two bodies to be consulted in the naming of two of the members of the Public Service Commission. In its place is the Public Service Senior Staff Association which is made up of Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries and Heads of the Departments. The majority of the officers are appointed on contract by the President and not by the Public Service Commission. They could be dismissed by the President and have no recourse to the Commission.

This association was reportedly formed with the support of the Head of the Presidential Secretariat and the Head of the Public Service with whom the members meet on a regular basis.

GPSU President Patrick Yarde described the move as another indication of the government’s autocratic behaviour and its determination to gain the upper hand on the six-member Public Service Commission.

Three of the members are appointed by the President after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition; two others are appointed by Parliament after consultation with such bodies as appear to represent public officers or classes of public officers; and one member, if he deems fit, is appointed by the President in his deliberate judgement.

Yarde said the move was in line with the government’s alteration of the terms of reference and criteria for participation in the Public Service Reform project being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank. He said that as a result a team headed by the HPS, and calling itself the technical leadership team, has arrogated to itself the preparation of the project documents to the exclusion of the relevant stakeholders.

Down for discussion too are the Fiscal Enactments (Amendment) Bill 2003 in the name of the Minister of Finance, the Land Registry (Amendment) Bill 2002 in the name of the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, and the Kidnapping Bill 2002 in the name of the Minister of Home Affairs.

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