Bunham and Jagan are turning in their graves
February 3, 2007
While Bharrat Jagdeo is basking in the glitter of London , poor Burnham and Jagan are turning in their graves.
The two former Presidents of Guyana must be appalled at the level of mendicancy to which this nation has descended, best epitomized by the so-called Sunset Legislation that was tabled last Monday in the National Assembly.
What an inauspicious beginning to the first legislative sitting of the National Assembly! How offensive to our independence that the first piece of legislation to be tabled in the Ninth Parliament was legislation that stands as an affront to our national sovereignty.
Imagine a proposed law under which the Guyana Revenue Authority becomes a reporting arm of the CWC committee in the sense that it obligates the tax agency to inform the CWC 2007 Inc. of the detention of goods, and allows the CWC 2007 some 21 days to file an injunction blocking importation. This is a clear case of placing the cart before the horse.
It was commendable that the President has not activated, for this term, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. It is now expected that this ministry would be best located as a department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, because it would seem as if most of the legislation that is being passed today is externally directed.
From the country's recent financial laws, to the recent legislation dealing with trafficking in persons, right through to last Thursday's Sunset Legislation, Guyana 's legislative agenda is more responsive to external obligations that it is to domestic imperatives.
The recent tabling of Sunset Legislation begins the process of honouring our obligations to host Cricket World Cup 2007. However, the question that needs to be asked is whether the compromising of our sovereignty is worth the supposed economic benefits that would flow our way from this tournament.
For years, Guyana has not been able to protect its singers from copyright infringement. Local and foreign music is being openly pirated in the country, and other forms of property rights protection are virtually non-existent. Yet, lo and behold, we are now reading about the million-dollar fines that will be levied for violations of marketing rights for the tournament.
There has been talk, also, though not in the legislation, about the need to make the entire Caribbean one country for this entire tournament. For years now, there has been only talk about free movement within the region, yet it is being suggested that we may well have legislation to treat the entire Caribbean as one country for the duration of Cricket World Cup 2007. In one swipe, we can integrate the entire Caribbean .
I can understand the position of the sponsors of this major tournament. They have an investment to protect. They want to guarantee that these investments are protected. They, therefore, demanded and got legislation to protect their investments.
The problem is why did Guyana simply accept these proposals that were requested. No self-respecting sovereign country will simply roll over and concede to legislation that constitutes an affront to its self-respect.
The fines in the Sunset Legislation are extremely punitive. They stand out in stark contrast to existing fines that are levied in our courts, and also in contrast to the absence of protection for local musicians and others demanding copyright protection.
There is one thing which I am certain about: neither Cheddi nor Burnham would have tolerated this sort of legislation.
Burnham, had he been alive today, could have been expected to tell the organizers to take their tournament elsewhere. He would not have tolerated being dictated to with all those requirements that have to be met to host the tournament. Burnham would have simply told the organizers that they would have had to make do with what the average citizen had to put up with, and therefore all these special requirements that are being demanded would have been dismissed outright.
I doubt, also, whether Cheddi would have tolerated all these demands. He would not have been in as dominant a position as Burnham's, but he, too, would have been offended by the legislation. He would have asked for a common position, I believe, from his Caricom partners.
World Cup 2007 may be the biggest thing to have hit Guyana , but is it worth the price that we have to pay as a country?
Can the Local Organizing Committee come up with a minimum figure that Guyana will earn for hosting this tournament? We are passing laws to protect the tournament's marketing laws, but just what will we be gaining from the use of this beautiful part of the world?
And just who is going to police this Sunset Legislation when there is already a heavy demand on the limited human resources at our disposal?