Budget Speech Mr James Bond - 20123061 13 Apr, 2012
April 13, 2012
Mr. Bond: Thank you Mr. Speaker. Let me begin by saying thanks to the more senior Members of this House who have extended the warmest of welcomes to new Members in this House. I do not presume to speak on behalf of all the new Members, but for those who may not have gotten up to say Thank you, I want to say thanks to the Members of this House for the welcome they have shown us. Also, I wish to congratulate you personally and publicly on your ascension to the Speaker’s Chair. I must say that Guyana is honoured to have a statesman of your calibre sitting in the Chair and I say this with due respect to the other Members who would have vied for the Speaker’s Chair, my good friend and brother, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, and my sister, Mrs. Deborah Backer, and also Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, who is not here right now. I also would like to congratulate the Minister of Finance, Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh, who presented this Budget, and, of course, his team as well. Good job, Sir.
However, please Sir, if I may begin with the substantive parts of my presentation, I think it is Rogers and Walters in the 6th edition of their treatise, How Parliament Works, who said:
“The word 'budget' comes from the archaic French bougette, which actually means a little bag.”
What we have heard so far from the Minister’s little bag does not have a lot of goodies. As a legal practitioner for some odd years, I would have expected a particular goodie when I looked at the Estimates and that is in relation to the Ombudsman. I have looked at the Estimates from 1992 to present and I must say that up to 2005, the Office of the Ombudsman was functioning. There were reports; there were estimates. Some work was being done. Up to 2001, there were Reports filed by the Office of the Ombudsman and submitted to this House. But since 2005, there has been a considerable drought.
I see in the Estimates, it reads, in some cases, $13 billion estimated, but at the end of the day, $3 billion was spent on maintaining the Office. Nothing was done by the Office of the Ombudsman from 2005-2012. That, in my opinion, is a shame.
The Office of the Ombudsman, if I may quote none other than the Hon. Sir Shridath Ramphal, who as then Attorney General and Minister of State in August, 1967:
“Our Constitution contains an elaborate network of constitutional guarantees of fundamental human rights and in our endeavour to ensure that human rights in our society were safe guarded in practical ways, the Constitution itself established the Ombudsman.”
That is supposed to be a goodie in this Budget and it is not there. If I may also share with the House some of the objectives of the Office, in part:
1. To investigate and resolve complaints promptly against injustice done to members of the public by government departments and other authority;
2. To offer guidance to members of the public whose complaints are outside of the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman; and
3. To ensure that members of the public are treated alike and there is no discrimination on the grounds of race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex.
Mr. Speaker, if I may go outside our jurisdiction, Roy C. Gregory in his treaties, The Parliamentary Ombudsman in the United Kingdom, Vol. 111 in 1996 at page 304 said:
“The Office is an invaluable aid to the individual and a constructive critic of the executive.”
We live in a day and age when constructive criticism is seen as bad advice by the Eastern side. We live in a day and age in which the Hon. Minister, Mr. Clement Rohee, presumptuously says that transparency and accountability could be accomplished without the participation of the Members of the Western side of the House. That is an affront to the principles of good governance, transparency and accountability.
This coming from a senior functionary within the Peoples Progressive Party /Civic shows that the party has problem with understanding that incestuousness and inbreeding results in a drought of ideas. You have to look out. You cannot consume within your own self; you will die and you will grow out of existence. That is of a result of why on November 28th they suffered a shock. They were so concerned about what was within that they did not see what was without.
I was also shocked and appalled when the Hon. Minister Clement Rohee harkened back to the 14th of April 1989 saying that right outside of these Parliament buildings he was dragged on his back to the Brickdam Police Station. Is it not ironic that under the watch of this very Minister Members of this Hon. House were shot, arrested, charged and placed before the Courts? These were peaceful demonstrators exercising their right to say that they were not happy with the process. A party who claims that they have survived struggles against tyranny, for a party to continue in such a realm shows that he who forgets his past is doomed to repeat it.
They spoke about 1992, everybody except my good friend Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo. Everyone spoke about 1992 and back… [Mr. Ali: Hon. Member.] Thank you my Hon. friend Mr. Irfaan Ali. Do you know what it tells me? It tells me that the PPP/Civic wants to be remembered as the party that remembered the PNC/R. If they look to the north they will see the Caribbean Islands and North America to which my Hon. friend Mr. Rohee cannot travel. To the east they will see Suriname. To the West they will see Venezuela and to the south they will see Brazil, but instead they look back. As a Preacher’s son I remember...
Mr. Speaker: I believe there is a Point of Order Mr. Bond, hold on a minute.
Mr. Rohee: Mr. Speaker, a point of illumination, for the benefit of the Members and other. I would like to enlighten the Hon. Member as well as those who have an interest that I have only just about four days ago returned from the United States. [Mrs. Backer: Did you return voluntarily?]
Mr. Bond: I am glad my Minister has had that which was taken away from him given back to him; my congratulations, Mr. Minister.
Instead, this Party looks back. The only person I can remember suffering dire consequences for looking back was Lot’s wife. Because of the looking back nature of the People’s Progressive Party Civic we are sucking salt, so to speak.
Why, do I ask the Hon. Minister, Dr. Ashni Kumar Singh has the Office of the Ombudsman been left to rot since 2005? Look at the zeros, the numerous “duck eggs” in the Estimates. We cannot ever take for granted this office. This Budget is presumptuously titled, “Remaining on Course, United in Purposes, Prosperity for All”.
If I may echo a former distinguished Member of this House in the Budget debates of 2008 where that budget was titled “Staying the Course”, there is no freshness in the People’s Progressive Party/Civic I must say. Mr. Murray said, “I would not like to stay on the scores”. This $2.1 billion that is allocated for the justice sector is a commendable sum. However, developing countries with new challenges we much reach out not only to the private sector, but also other interest groups that have sought partnerships to meet those challenges.
The thinking behind public-private partnership must involve the growth engines of the private sector and its competitiveness, it innovation in projects that will transform the lives of the populace of the country and the landscape of the country. Further, it gives credence and validity to claims of promoting unity and moving forward together. Ian Davidoff in the Harvard Business Review publication of October 4th 2006 says, “Under public-private partnerships the Government contracts with the private company not just to build the facility but operate it over its expected life as well”. Public-private partnerships are used for social infrastructure such as Courts and Hospitals as well as for economic infrastructures such as tour roads and public transportation.
I do not know why the PPP have not embraced this concept more. Only twice in the Hon. Minister’s presentation is public-private partnerships mentioned, two times in 69 pages. The formulation of a system of prioritising programmes upon which this $2.1 billion is spent should be undertaking using the same principles that obtain in private-public partnerships. In this wise the Government will be able to utilise the wealth of expertise at the disposal of the Guyana Bar Association, the Berbice Bar Association, the Guyana Women Lawyers Association, the wider pool of Judges and Magistrates and the entire Guyanese legal fraternity both foreign and domestic. I have not yet heard of the Government’s intention to do any of the above.
I heard my learned friend, the Hon. Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Anil Nandlall saying that he consulted with a Consultant, but consulting with a Consultant cannot be meaningful consultation. We must engage every single person in the judicial sector. All hands must be placed on deck for this monumental task of transforming our judicial sector, including all the stakeholders.
Members of the legal fraternity have been shouting into the ears of the Government that our Judges and Magistrates still take copious notes by hand, wasting much need judicial time and draining our legal luminaries. They have shouted in the ears of this Administration that we are in the 21st Century where our Courts should be equipped with every modern technology, whether stenographers, or real time voice data compilation, which I believe will deliver the service which Guyanese need.
It is commendable that the Government is seeking to build and rehabilitate buildings, but buildings do not translate into justice or quality of service. New buildings must go hand in hand with new policies and well trained personnel who are adequately paid. Again, these are areas where money will be well spent. The Guyanese people and legal fraternity also have reason to fear that 20% of all capital expenditure is siphoned off from projects to illegal pockets. This $2.1 billion seems as a ripe cherry for the picking.
I know Members of the House will remember Mr. Murray also saying that these 20%, in that time I think it would have accounted to $40.8 billion of the capital expenditure that was expended in the year 2008. I know I may take some flak for quoting none other than... [Ms. Teixeira: Source.] I love that. It is from the first day of the Budget Debate of 28th February 2008. Check the Hansard Records please Hon. Member. The Hansard Records is a source Mr. Speaker. Though I may take some flak for quoting none other than President Bharrat Jagdeo, if I may quote him immediately after quoting the Hon. Mr. Murray I will nonetheless do so. For it was the said Ex-President, known ambassador at large, Champion of the Earth, Doctor-Doctor who was speaking to sugar workers on the 25th November 1999 said these words – yes “Doctor-Doctor” did say these words:
“We have a lot of corruption still in Government agencies despite progresses we have made. That has to go. People have to understand that when they work in Government agencies they are there to serve the people of the country. They have to understand and behave in that way”
That was President Jagdeo. There is a saying in Papua New Guinea that corruption grows like a tree. You can uproot it with your fingers as a seedling. A few years later it grows into tree and you will then need a bulldozer. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic after 20 years is still using its fingers to uproot corruption. I fear for the $2.1 billion for the justice sector of which I belong.
The National Development Strategy 2001 – 2010, Chapter 3, paragraph 317 states:
“The basic features of this fundamental of good governance are that:
(1) The rule of law must prevail over all individual, institutions, including even the Government.
(2) Citizens must be shielded from arbitrary and unlawful acts done by other person done by the state.
(3) All citizens should be given equal treatment before the law and should be subject to the law. The rule law is an essential precondition for accountability. For the rule of law to prevail there must inter alia be knowledge of the law and the legal system, an independent Magistracy and Judiciary, an uncorrupted and incorruptible Police Force and the non discriminate application of law itself.”
Listening to the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs, I am wondering whether or not he is of this world, by that I mean of this country. In this country, for the past few years we have had incidences where members of the Police Force have engaged in acts that are criminal in nature. They have been hauled before the Courts and charged. Yet the Hon. Minister tells us when we say these things that they are not true. He is also saying that everything the Opposition says is not true, that we are only posturing. The massacres of Lindo Creek are not posturing; there is no political posturing in that. There is no political posturing in the massacres Lusignan. In Bartica there is no posturing; those happened. I do not know whether the Minister left during that time, but those things have occurred.
If I may also quote from the same National Development Strategy which says this about the justice system, “Court facilities although having been improved in recent times are still in general shabby and various states of disrepair” in Sparendaam it still leaks. “Court staff are depleted in numbers and not as qualified as they are required to be.” In Mahdia it is so close that it is like a chicken coup, you cannot move your legs. “Indeed, almost fifty percent of the positions in the judicial system are vacant and many of the existing staff occupies positions that are well beyond their education capabilities. In addition, the law libraries do not possess the basic reference documents and reports are not kept up to date. Moreover, there are reported to be inordinate delays in the trying of cases mainly because Court files very frequently cannot be found because of the absence of indexing systems, the low quality of security and the inefficiency of filing procedures. If these do not concern the Ministry of Legal Affairs then we are in dire straits. These must concern every single Guyanese, because all Guyanese are affected by them, not only the Chancellor.
Furthermore, Guyana’s Courts are not supported by modern technology. Computers are virtually unknown. I could tell first hand. The first time I walked in with my Blackberry Playbook the Magistrate told me to put it away. I was absolutely astounded. I had to explain to the magistrate that instead of writing notes and saving cases, you can compile and index things right here. I was afterwards permitted to use it. Computers are virtually unknown. The equipment that is currently utilised is often so obsolete that spare parts cannot be obtained for them. In addition, the organisational structure...
I wish to echo the sentiments of the Hon. Member Mr. Basil Williams who mentioned the 72 hours, but I will like to take it a step further and propose to the Hon. Minister that we abolish the 72 hours and have 24 hours of incarceration. Seventy two hours is abominable. It is not for decent society to have persons incarcerated for 72 hours without bail whilst their resolution is pending.
I will also join with the Minister of Legal Affairs, the Hon. Attorney General, who proposes that there be part time judges and judges to work on weekends to ensure that our citizens do not rot in jail over the weekend which has happened most of the time.
We must invest in a programme of education and assertion throughout the length and breadth of Guyana. This is another project that can be undertaken by private public partnership. Most of our population are unaware of their basic human rights and are still feeling helpless in the instances where breached. Our juvenile offenders are the most vulnerable in the justice system and continue to be neglected. There are no goodies in this little bag for them. I will just give one aspect in the basis of time. On November 28th 2008 a questionnaire was circulated by the Organisation of American States (OAS) in which the Hon. Ms. Gail Teixeira, then Advisor to the President on Governance, says as many juveniles at the New Opportunity Core have not attended secondary school on a consistent basis. The Centre runs remedial programmes for all programmes for all students. In addition to the basic curricula the students are also exposed to various skills training including carpentry, tailoring, needle craft such as embroidery and knitting, home economics and metal works. The students are involved in sports and music programmes.
We have reached the day and age where remedial programmes just will not do it for our young people that have come into touch with the justice system as a result of delinquency, broken homes or poverty. We will continue to fail our young people who find themselves at the odds of the law. I believe it is time we find an alternative to use the strengths and remove the weaknesses of young offenders, whereby we can maximise their potential under the supervision of the Courts. The New Opportunity Core cannot prepare our young people for the 21st Century, a century of cutting edge technological advancements. The curricula of the New Opportunity Core must merit that of our best secondary schools and not the Camp Street or New Amsterdam prisons. I recommend a system of juvenile reformation where candidates are screened by on officer of the Supreme Court and placed in a programme best suited for their skill, with weekly or monthly reports given to the Supreme Court.
I know I have to rush through for ten minutes, but I also want to mention the incidence of the Guyana Law School very quickly. The 16th August 2002 Stabroek News says, a quote, which Dr. Luncheon would have said these words, and this is a report of the Staboek News of since 2002, not 1991 nor 1990, under the caption ‘The creation of a Guyana Law School is being considered by the Government and it may come into being at the start of 2003/2004 academic year’, it read “Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon said at his Post Cabinet Press Briefing held in the Office of the President yesterday Dr. Luncheon said that the concept paper on the creation of the Guyana Law School was distributed and discussed widely at Cabinet and it was at the most initial of reviews deemed acceptable.”
Since 2002 nothing has been done. I must say, given the report, it would appear as though there was an idea, but there was also a proposal by a member of the private sector to run, build and operate the transfer of the Guyana Law School. This has not been followed through by the Government and we continue to suffer, our law students who still have a quota affecting them, continue to suffer and have to wait until a next year. In the same 2002 when I went into law school a lot of persons where left back because of this same quota that was applied to our University of Guyana students. This is unacceptable Mr. Speaker.
We must focus on this sector for a number of reasons. Not only does our future depend upon a strong justice system, but also the order and decency of this country depends upon it. Guyana cannot continue to progress where our justice system lacks behind. We cannot compare our justice system to 1992. We have to compare our justice system with the justice system of first world countries and countries who have sought to give meaning to fundamental human rights. I think one of our lawyers said that Guyana has no shortage of laws; Guyana has a problem with implementing laws. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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