The Opposition, People’s Progressive Party, has accused the government of abandoning parliamentary democracy, in wake of being served with notice that the government intends to suspend the standing orders at Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly to allow three bills to go through all three stages for passage.
The party said it only received information about the bills on Tuesday afternoon.
The three bills are the Municipal and District Councils and Local Authorities (Amendment) Bill No. 14 of 2015, the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) BillNo. 15 of 2015 and the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill No.16 of 2015.
According to the PPP, it had not been given a chance to see the bills before Tuesday, December 15, although they were gazetted on December 9th and 10th.
It complained that “none has been posted on the Official Gazette Guyana website nor on the Parliament of Guyana website. This is a flagrant violation of parliamentary democracy which is premised on, this the highest law making body,being able to scrutinise and examine legislation as well as to provide ample time for the public to know what business is before the National Assembly and to be able to be informed and to exercise the freedom to express their views on these matters before the House.”
The party raised specific concern about the Local Government Amendment bill in wake of the upcoming Local Government elections.
“The first Bill, Bill No. 14 with regards to Local Government Elections (LGE) increases the number of signatures required to support a political party list under Proportional Representation. These amendments essentially make it extremely onerous or may even deny smaller parties from participating in the LGE”, the party noted.
It added that the amendments are “undemocratic and must be opposed by all”.
With regard to the Anti Money Laundering Amendment Bill, the opposition party said one has to ask why the rush on this new AMLCFT (Amendment) Bill when the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs has denied that Guyana is not compliant with FATF.
“Why isn’t there the same urgency to set up the AMLCFT Authority and the FIU as provided for in the government’s AMLCFT Amendment Act 2015”, the PPP queried.
It said the third Bill, Bill No, 16 which deals with terrorism, “is a brand new 98 page bill which again no one has seen”.
The opposition party believes that due to the nature of the bill, developments in other countries on terrorism and concerns with human rights here in Guyana, “this Bill should be properly and publicly scrutinised in a Parliamentary Special Select Committee”.
The PPP believes that by rushing the bills through the National Assembly, the government is being undemocratic.
According to the party, “their actions fly in the face of positions taken by the APNU/PNCR/PNCRIG and AFC in previous parliaments”.
The PPP/ C Members of Parliament have now issued a call on the Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Union, the UN and in particular the UNDP, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, OAS, CARICOM, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to note “this new assault on parliamentary democracy by the APNU AFC Coalition Government and to take a stand in support of parliamentary democracy in the 11th Parliament”.
The party also wants civil society and progressive and democratic Guyanese “to express their opposition to the consistent erosion and abandonment of parliamentary democracy by the APNU AFC”.