Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Bipartisan Committees
(Aired 25 June 2003)

   The last commentary explained or attempted to explain the new Parliamentary Committees in the Parliament and how they will function. Let me re-read for you the nine areas addressed by the Communiqué, they were:

1. Parliament and Constitutional Reforms.

2. Implementation of the decisions of the Bipartisan Committees

3. De-politicisation of the Public Service.

4. Appointment of the PPPC and PNC/R nominees to state boards, Commissions and Committees

5. The appointment of the Disciplined Forces Commission to give priority to inquiries into the operations of the Guyana Police Force.

6. Agreements for the electricity sector.

7. The Constitutional office of the Leader of the Opposition.

8. The Crime Situation.

9. Issues raised by the President.

  Tonight therefore we will deal with the implementation of the Decisions of the Bi-partisan Committees the second item identified in the Communiqué. [2.1-2.6] in the Communiqué.

   There were Six {6} Bi-partisan committees which had met and consulted extensively with the public and which had made certain recommendations; these committees were: 2.1,  The National Policy on Land and House Lots Distribution 2.2. Local Government Reform. 2.3 Depressed Communities Needs 2.4. the Radio Monopoly and Non Partisan Boards, 2.5. Border and National Security Needs including recapitalisation of the GDF  2.6. Resuscitation of the Bauxite Industry and its Communities.

  Let's start with [2.1] national policy on land and house lots distribution; Some of the decision arising out of the Housing bipartisan committee will now be implemented as an amendment to Mr. Baksh's policy paper presentation in parliament on the 9th May 2002 which excluded much of what was agreed upon between the two leaders Jagdeo and Hoyte. These were agreements to (a). Monitor the distribution of land and house lots to ensure that it is undertaken in compliance with national criteria. (b) Investigate complaints, including complaints about administration of the distribution process. And (c) provide adequate redress in proven cases. It stipulates that by June 5th 2003 Baksh would amend and re-table his policy paper to include the criteria necessary to allocate house lots on a fair and equitable manner. It has not happened as yet Mr. Baksh being busy in Linden, but we are waiting patiently.

  [2.2] Local Government Reform; the Communiqué tells us that since the bipartisan committee was unable to submit its final report before the Jagdeo/Hoyte dialog broke down [and they had not completed their tasks] the committee would be re-established and mandated to complete its tasks within the period of three months: outstanding tasks of the Local Government Reform Committee are.

  1. Giving priority to the electoral system to be used for future local Government elections
  2. Developing a suitable system and appropriate procedures for compulsory annual fiscal transfers to the local Government Organs.
  3. Determine the terms of an independent constitutional Local Government commission.

 All legislation for the implementation of the local government reforms would be prepared for presentation to the national assembly within 6 months of the conclusion of the work of the committee. To the best of my knowledge this committee has not been formed to date, much less begun its function.

[2.3] Depressed communities needs. President Jagdeo and Mr. Corbin acknowledged that: all projects for the phase 1 communities have been completed and that G$60 Million is immediately available for phase 11 projects they also agreed that the Depressed Communities committee will, within one month, provide a list of depressed communities including those that were identified in the report of 4th June 2003, from which they would identify those for implementation in phase 11.

 [2.4] Radio Monopoly and Non Partisan Boards the President and Mr. Corbin agreed that in accordance with the guidelines agreed by the joint committee, the appointment of non partisan Directors to the boards of state owned media and the National Frequency Management Unit will be implemented within 4 months.

  Some of the agreements reached include:

  1. The establishment of a draft Broadcasting Bill which will include the creation of a National Broadcasting Authority and would be ready for consultation nationally through public hearings and in the parliament within two months and be laid in the national assembly within 4 months starting from 1st May 2003. I am waiting to see if the members of the Broadcast Authority will be chosen by a two thirds majority vote of the parliament; we, the Private Broadcasters will accept nothing less, it is what we have been fighting for since 1996.

   2. There will be equitable access based on parliamentary allocation (as distinct from Government) to state owned media by all parties who have seats in the Parliament.

    Those who have access to the commentaries on the web can look at the commentary "Chronicle" for my thoughts on this matter. But I do not like the clause "as distinct from government" here. The case I referred to in Trinidad gave the right to the members of the opposition to react and to respond to any Minister of the Government or other public functionary, in proportion to their allocation of seats in the parliament, we have to move away from this notion that the opposition are a non governmental body, they are very much so, they are the merely members of the Legislative branch of government and not the Executive branch, so if some PPP Minister goes on the air with the ruse that he is presenting the government's side on any matter [none of them do anyway, it is always a PR campaign for the PPP] then the opposition has the right to respond. that is, as I understand it, the legal repercussions of the 1985 landmark case in Trinidad; in it, there is no distinction between a Minister uttering government/party propaganda as compared to an opposition member of parliament doing the same thing. So take it out.  

  3. The communiqué tells us that quote ‘the independent' National Broadcasting Authority would be the license issuing authority for all "commercial" licenses for radio and television" Ladies and gentlemen merely stating that an authority is independent does not make it so, the method of selection of its members must guarantee it, and that is why I am advocating a Broadcast Authority based on a two thirds vote in Parliament. 

4. The National Frequency Management Unit will be under the control of the National Broadcasting Authority. This is very important and I am happy to see it here.

5. The Advisory Committee on Broadcasting will be disbanded immediately on the establishment of the National Broadcasting Authority.  

6. The relationship between the National Frequency Management Unit and the Broadcast Authority. This relationship is very important ladies and gentlemen, we cannot leave the NFMU as an independent unit controlled by the Prime Minister, it must come under the control of the Broadcast Authority, or the Prime Minister can issue frequencies to supporters of his political party alone and destroy the plurality of means of communicating thoughts and ideas from a cross section of the population as visualised by this Communiqué. 

 7. No new licenses will be given for radio or Television until the Broadcast authority is established.

8. Priority will be given to the issuance of commercial radio licenses using the statutorily enshrined criteria which emphasise high standards of broadcasting and serious penalties for their infringement.

  Now we come to 2.5. Border and National security Issues including recapitalisation of the GDF. The president and the leader of the opposition agreed that the joint Committee's report on these matters, which were submitted to the Ministry of Foreign affairs for editing, would be laid and debated in the national assembly.

     2.6. Bauxite Industry and their communities' resuscitation. This is the one area of the Communiqué that disturbs me. According to what was agreed to regarding the resuscitation of these communities by privatising their electrical supply and encouraging the Bauxite workers to get into new areas of endeavour addresses the community's needs but nowhere do I see that there is any plan to resuscitate the Bauxite Industry itself. The Trinidad Government has been asking this Government for some years now to send them our alumina and they will use their huge natural gas reserve power to refine it to aluminium, concessions can had from such an arrangement to the mutual benefit of both territories, I have actually met emissaries from the Trinidad Government who have come here to discuss this plan, and they are not connecting with anyone with vision or a brain cell.

   Now we come to a few of my grouses, we have taken over Power & Light for several months now, but the people who are managing it for us have not taken any steps whatsoever to enter a power purchase agreement with Synergy for Hydropower, now since it was this same Government that gave Synergy a license to build this Hydropower facility in July 2002, what is the problem?..... Making too much money in the transport of fuel for GP&L boys? This is why I get angry ladies and gentlemen, if this government had made the Hydropower deal when they were first approached by the Harza Group and Synergy there would be hydropower in the Demerara/Berbice interconnected system now! Today! We wasted time and money with Saspower, ESBI, AC Power and god knows who else for nearly 5 years. And we have nothing to show for it. What is wrong with us?

  We have also apparently not decided to sigh the Port Agreement with the Brazilians to allow their produce to access the Atlantic, Brazil is a big country, ladies and gentlemen, 170 million people with the 9th largest economy in the world and they need us, the only people on this planet who actually do, what the hell are we doing messing around with Caricom? They can't even help us to sell our rice in Jamaica. And our nationals are being treated like lepers around the Caribbean by these same members of Caricom. Let them build the new Caricom headquarters in Barbados near to the bench where they put us Guyanese to sit, whilst they examine us with a microscope. Take the 2 million US for the new Caricom headquarters which we have to find and build the road to Brazil. I have been saying that we do not need a new sugar factory in this country, but we continue to build it, in the end I will be right, I am positive of it, but by then it will be too late and we will be in deeper economic mess. Take the money and build the road to Brazil.