Despite mounting criticism from the Opposition and the Private Sector Commission and the Guyana Human Rights Association, the Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman has indicated that the Government is acting within the Standing Orders and the Constitution to take several Bills through all three stages of debate at one sitting in the National Assembly.
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) Bill No. 15 of 2015 and the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill No.16 of 2015.
Trotman said the three Bills, which are expected to be taken through the three stages on Today, are critical to good governance and the strengthening of democracy and as such, they cannot and should not be delayed, when the law provides for it to be done in such a manner.
“Erskine May on Parliamentary Practice (24ed) expressly states that: “…except in cases of urgent and pressing necessity, no motion may be made to dispense with any sessional or Standing Order of the House, without due notice, …However, Standing Orders are frequently suspended, if good cause is shown, to permit bills – more especially bills brought from the other House at a late period of the session to proceed without the usual intervals and notices”, Minister Trotman quoted.
The Bills are expected to ensure that citizens participate in the long-awaited Local Government Elections (LGE), while guaranteeing Guyana’s international standing in the global fight against criminality, money laundering and terrorism.
According to Minister Trotman, “the timely passage of these Bills, before the end of 2015, is a national imperative and the Government expects to receive the full support of the Opposition in the debate and passage of the Bills”.
He added that it is universally accepted that the demands of a situation allow for a Government to take a Bill through all three stages of debate at one sitting, and this has been the recognised practice in the pre and post-independence era.
“It is a long and accepted practice in the Westminster Parliamentary System that Government business must take priority, and that from time to time, the Standing Orders and Rules are amended or suspended to allow for this to happen,” the Governance Minister said.
The PPP has lashed out at the government over the move saying that it should have been given more time to study the three bills especially the Terrorism Bill which has 107 pages.
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.”
But Trotman said the PPP is being hypocritical and mischievous in its claims that Government is subverting the parliamentary process in taking the Bills through the stages of debate at one sitting. He noted that all Governments, and especially the PPP, have utilised this option; often times with the support of the then Opposition.
“In January and March of 2007 respectively, the then PPP government utilised the permissible Standing Orders to take several Bills through all stages of debate on a single occasion, Bills addressing the movement and migration of persons for Cricket World Cup 2007, and the deployment of disciplined forces on a CARICOM mission, were approved in one day, and after very short notice”, Trotman reminded.