Mistreatment of Opposition at flag raising ceremony– MPs vent on social mediaAlmost 24 hours after they were left to stand embarrassingly at the flag-raising ceremony to mark Guyana’sOpposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo expressing his displeasure on Wednesday night at D’Urban Park50th Independence anniversary Wednesday night, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) are yet to receive an explanation from the Minister responsible for staging the event, Nicolette Henry.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, when contacted on Thursday, said his party has received no response from Henry or any other government official on the issue.Wednesday night opposition MPs walked out of D’Urban Park after they turned up and found that the promised seating arrangements were not available.Jagdeo told Guyana Times his Party had signalled its intention of attending the event, since it wanted to participate in the activities to mark the country’s significant milestone. He said contact was also made with Junior Education Minister Nicolette Henry, who had responsibility for the event, concerning the seating arrangement. He said assurance was given that this was taken care of. In fact, he said she related that there were some 1000 VIP seats.Jagdeo said while himself and a few other senior members of the Party were seated, the majority of party members were left standing, while other persons, many of whom were dressed inappropriately, passed by and were allowed seats. He said he asked Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams to address the matter and warned that if it was not, then he would be left with no choice but to leave in solidarity with his colleagues who were left unseated. The group left some 45 minutes after arrivingMeanwhile, several MPs took to social media to vent over the situation.Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall said, “they may deny us seats at the Flag Raising Ceremony. They may refuse to recognize but cannot deny the role which Cheddie Jagan and many other leaders of PPP played in the struggle for Independence from 1943-1966. Not only did we play a leading part in that struggle, but the 23 years (out of 50), after independence, that is from 1992-2015, that we governed this country were the best period of our country’s developmental trajectory. It’s too much to recite here but even detractors, if they want to be credible, will agree.Member of Parliament Priya Manickchand said, “unfortunately, when we got to the event, happy to be there with feelings of deep patriotic pride, the Govt provided no seats for the opposition MPs except for five seats given to the Leader of the Opposition, Sam Hinds and three other MPs. While the rest of us were standing there in the passageway for no less than 25 minutes.”The MP went on to say that, “this shameless and infantile” behaviour was designed to embarrass the Opposition and is unacceptable as it is petty, disrespectful and destructive. “Hey, Executive. You can’t stop us. We are elected office holders. We represent hundreds of thousands of persons. We celebrate Guyana’s Independence,” Manickchand added.Also venting disappointment was former Housing Minister and now shadow Finance Minister Irfaan Ali: “The talk of unity and coming together was all fluff. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected the Government to stoop to this level of disregard and disrespect for the opposition. Despite assuring the opposition that accommodation would be made for Opposition MPs this was not the case. On arrival at the Jubilee Park we were shocked to learn that neither seats nor accommodation was made for us. After standing for almost 30 minutes waiting to be seated whilst numerous persons were seated, the humiliation was enough and as a team we left… The former Presidents and General Secretary left with the MPs in solidarity. This is the unity the President alluded to” Meanwhile, former President Donald Ramotar who also attended the flag raising ceremony and was seated said that he also walked out of the proceedings in support of his colleagues when he heard about the incident, .Efforts to contact Minister Henry on the issue proved futile.
Guyana’s private sector representative bodies want Government to open up and tell the nation precisely how it intends to use its earnings from the imminent oil inflows in 2020.This was the view expressed by President of the Georgetown Chambers ofPresident of the Georgetown Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Deodat IndarCommerce and Industry (GCCI), Deodat Indar, during a brief interaction with journalists on the sidelines of a stakeholder engagement on Thursday at the Marriott Hotel.The GCCI president told journalists that the private sector umbrella body is in fact looking forward to a National Conversation on the issue.“We need to have a sit down just as we did with Local Content Policy…to ensure that the policy we have, the Guyanese people are part of that design,” according to the GCCI president.While expressing a level of optimism that this will in fact be the approach of Government, Indar noted that while he believes there are good intentions for the industry, there are still a number of issues to be addressed.He said the approach with regard the development of a Local Content Policy is welcomed, but there are also a host of other issues that need to be addressed ahead of oil production in 2020.He drew specific reference to the finalisation of the Petroleum Laws and the establishment of the long awaited Sovereign Wealth Fund, in addition to a well-thought-out programme or policy for the spending of the oil revenues.“Most importantly, we need to have some document, some policy, to say what we doing with the money that we receive from Exxon(Mobil)” Indar said.“Where are we going to spend this money? …we need to go into more details where we spend the money for capacity development in Guyana,” he posited.He was adamant there is a dire need for the capacity building of national institutions in addition to the massive upgrade of services, including in the security, infrastructure, health, education and security fronts.Public consultationsAs it relates to establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, substantive Minister Raphael Trotman had earlier in the year committed to public consultations with regard to the money to be set aside from the revenues earned from the country’s extractive industry, including the emerging oil and gas sector. To date, no such consultation has obtained.At the time, Minister Trotman had told stakeholders during a consultation exercise on the petroleum laws, “It’s hopefully not necessarily going to be passed this year into Act, but the intention is that, later this year, it will be brought to the public for examination, scrutiny, and improvement.”According to a missive released earlier this year by the Government’s Department of Public Information, a Sovereign Wealth Fund is envisioned to be a state-owned investment fund that is made up of surpluses from official foreign currency operations, proceeds of privatisations, governmental transfer payments, fiscal surpluses, and/or receipts resulting from resource exports.These sums of money can be used for investment purposes, to benefit the country’s economy and citizens.Guyana’s SWF Bill was drafted by the Commonwealth Secretariat with input from the Government, and was presented to the minister last December, according to that department.Trotman had announced that the proposed Bill to give effect to the fund is fashioned after international model, namely Norway.Trotman had recently told the National Assembly that it is the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, who will be formally presenting the proposed Bill to the National Assembly.The National Assembly will emerge from its annual recess next month, at which time the 65 Member legislative arm of Government will resume working.