Budget Debate 20133225 09 Apr, 2013
Mr. Nandlall: The Hon. Mr. Trotman, and it is unfortunate that he carries your name, has put us in quite a dismal mood, so the task is mine to bring energy to this House.
I have been in this Parliament since 2006 and I have spoken on every Budget since. I wish to say that this is the most people oriented, people friendly and welfare oriented budget of them all. Like the speakers before me on this side of the House, I wish to extend congratulations to Dr. Ashni Singh and his diligent and competent staff for a job that is well done.
We have heard a lot of things about this Budget from both sides of the House. But any dispassionate examination of this Budget would lead to the ineluctable conclusion that this Budget, in its focus and allocations, targets almost every conceivable interest group in our population and alters in a material way their financial, economic and social status and well being for the better. These groupings include, but are not limited, to our farmers, public sector employees, private sector employees, private sector employers, sugar workers, professionals, children, students, business sector – both small and large, single mothers, pensioners and our Amerindians all have been touched in some material way by budgetary allocations contained in Budget 2013.
This Budget therefore touches the life of every single Guyanese. Fundamentally, the Guyanese people have recognised that. They have recognised that. Someone made reference to the fact that we should go on the streets and listen to the people. Well I want to say that we have done that and the people have given us their full endorsement; both individually and through their organisations. One only has to read the newspapers and they will see the Private Sector Commission endorsing the Budget; the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce is endorsing the budget; the labour movement Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) endorsing the Budget. One has to look at the stakeholders’ meeting which the President entertained. At that meeting, every conceivable major stakeholder organisation was present and they gave their emphatic and full endorsement to Budget 2013.
Indeed and in fact the only people I know in Guyana who does not support this Budget is the 33 on this side of the House. [Interruption] Your supporters support the Budget; you do not and that is the truth. [Interruption] [Mr. B. Williams: It is the majority you are talking to.] It will not be the majority for long and that is what is important.
It is not my intention to recite all the benefits and other facets of Budget 2013. My Colleagues have done that with admirable clarity and in commendable details. I wish, however, to express some views about the intention stated by the Opposition, both parties, to cut the Budget.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Minister, before you do and this is by way of a personal explanation and perhaps an apology. There was a young lady here in a dress that matches your tie. I do not know if there is any way she was associated with you. I had asked that she...Has she left?
Mr. Nandlall: Could the young lady stand and let me see her?
Mr. Speaker: I think she was asked to, not to leave, but it was brought to her attention. But if in any way, I now realise that she was associated you, I apologise.
Mr. Nandlall: That there was any correlation? This tie is just to represent the prosperity in the mining industry. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: I see. Go ahead.
Mr. Nandlall: Sir, may I use the fact that I am on my leg and whatever privilege that brings me, to invite the young lady to come back? Thank you very much, Sir. I would like the time to be restored.
Mr. Speaker, if I may resume. The Opposition in this House regrettably have expressed the intention, even prior to the presentation of the Budget and of course, subsequent to the presentation of the Budget. They have expressed the unfortunate intention to cut Budget 2013. I have looked very carefully and I have listened very carefully in the way their desire was expressed and I get the impression that by cutting the Budget, my Friends on the other side feel that they are somehow hurting the Government. I want to say to them that if they intend to cut the Budget to hurt the Government that is not what they are doing. They are hurting the Guyanese people when they cut the Budget. They are putting us in a state of anti-development when they cut the Budget. It is not about the Government.
I listened - I am aware of all the machinations that are going on in the background so that numbers can be made right here; so that that budget cut can be affected. So determined are my people on the other side to cut the welfare of the Guyanese people that they are engaged in all forms of machinations.
I listened to a television programme two weeks ago, featuring my friend, Mr. Greenidge, the Hon. Member, Mr. Ramjattan and the Hon. Member, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo. [Ms. Ally: Good team.] Master team - distinguished honourable gentlemen. They were on the television speaking about Budget 2013. They were speaking about what they will do with Budget 2013; how they will cut it. I was listening with rapt attention because so engrossed were these Members, I could see the excitement in their eyes as they were discussing the instruments that they will use. Mr. Ramjattan spoke very passionately about the size of his instrument that he will bring. He said the bigger the Budget the bigger the size.
When I looked at the gentlemen on the television, it appeared as though cutting the Budget was some form of political masturbation to these men; so excited were they. I want to tell them that when they engage in that cutting exercise as they seek their political orgasm, they will break the interest of the Guyanese people. They will mess up the lives of the Guyanese people.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Attorney General, one second. I think you have made your point and I ask that you move on from there please.
Mr. Nandlall: Sir, thank you very much. The Guyanese people understand the imagery and what the Opposition is doing with their Budget. They have identified projects that they are going to cut. They have said that they are going to cut the budgetary allocations to the Amaila Falls Project. Why is it that the Guyanese people, in the year 2013, not entitled to a reliable and cheap and renewable source of electricity? Their Government wants to give it to them, but the Opposition wants to deny them of electricity. [Interruption]
Another project that they have identified is the new Speciality Hospital. In the year 2013, are the Guyanese people not entitled to the best health care in the world? Their Government is prepared to give it to them and the Opposition is prepared to take it away from them.
Another project identified is the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA). Are Guyanese in the year 2013 not entitled to a modern airport? Their Government wants to give them, but the Opposition wants to deny them.
What wrong have the Guyanese people done? What sins have they committed not to be entitled to facilities that are available to people all over the world; that is the question? What is it that the Guyanese people have done; what wrong have they done; what sin have they committed to be denied these basic facilities that are available to people everywhere? My grandmother would say, They got cockabea or as Mr. Rohee would say, “Goat bite them”. What is wrong; why must the Guyanese people not get these facilities?
There is also another side to the cuts proposed. There is a legal side. This House is the premiere law making institution of the land. This House, therefore, has a responsibility to ensure that the Constitution of the country and the laws of the land are obeyed. This House cannot take a position that is contrary to the Constitution and contrary to the law. Justice Chang in a 34 page ruling outlined why the Opposition has no power to cut the budget. Justice Chang said so in a ruling. If the Parliament is going to take a position that they are not going to obey the laws of the land and they are not going to obey orders of the Court, well they do so at their own peril. [Mr. Nagamootoo: What do you intend to do?] Well you see my friend is saying what do I intend to do. I do not want to do anything. Let the people see that you are telling the Court “instruments”. That is what the people will see.
Forget what I say and what Chief Justice Chang said, there is an article written by ... [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Members allow the Minister to proceed, to make his case. I am interested in hearing his article. Go ahead.
Mr. Nandlall: There is an article written in the Kaieteur Newspapers – Sir, the Kaieteur News as you know, was never a friend of the Government. Mr. Ramjattan is the legal advisor to the Kaieteur News. This is what the article’s title is The AFC’s bark is not matched with its bite at the moment, published on the 26rd March, 2013, by an author, Peeping Tom.
Mr. Speaker: Is it a legal opinion?
Mr. Nandlall: It is not a legal opinion, but it is my view and I will incorporate it into my address. This is what the writer says:
“The courts have held that the Opposition cannot cut the Budget; they can only approve or not approve.
While this is just a preliminary ruling, it must be borne in mind that rulings of a court must be complied with until such time as they are overturned or reversed. Society will descend into anarchy if bodies of persons decide to not comply with rulings of the court, regardless of how they may feel about a specific judgement.
The AFC is insisting that it can cut the Budget because the ruling by the Chief Justice (CJ) was just a preliminary ruling. It should bear in mind a number of things. Firstly, an interim injunction is a temporary measure that is instituted until the final determination of the matter under consideration. Should citizens adopt the same position with interim injunctions as the AFC is adopting with the CJ’s ruling?
Should citizens not comply with an interim injunction until it is made absolute? Imagine the implications for the rule of law should the citizens decide to not comply with interim injunctions.
The fact that the Chief Justice made a preliminary ruling does not negate its potency. It was a ruling, one that was of significant length, and it was made no doubt because the necessity existed for the National Assembly and other interested parties to be so guided. It should be recalled that there was also a preliminary ruling in the case of the challenge of the denial of the right of Minister Rohee to speak in the National Assembly and when the final ruling came there was a clear and unambiguous injunction that it was binding.
In that ruling Chief Justice had noted that while it was not for the courts to interfere with the workings and operations of the National Assembly, the Court was the guardian of the constitution and has the jurisdiction to determine whether the actions of the National Assembly were in contravention with the Constitution.
He also observed that while parliament can determine the extent of rights and privileges of its members, so too can the courts since such a determination concerns questions of law, and when the court so determines it is, ‘final and binding’.”
The article concludes by telling us, that the AFC is taking us down the road to anarchy.
My friends are inviting me to go to the Chief Justice’s decision and I will. I understand that there is a forum later in this process that will allow me to address whether there is a cutting exercise and the legality of it and not. I intend to deal with the Chief Justice’s ruling, but I do not have time on my side.
The Hon. Member, Mr. Carl Greenidge in his presentation, accused the Government of violating the law, the Constitution of the land, ignoring motions passed by the House or presenting a budget whose format violates the Constitution – in particular Article 222. With those arguments I wish to treat. [Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon: Speak to the Budget.] All is part of it; it is the Budget I am speaking about.
This Government repeatedly, in this Tenth Parliament, has had to hold steadfast to the letter and spirit of the law and the Constitution of this land. The Opposition has indeed, using the language of the Hon. Minister of Finance, embarked upon a veritable plethora of constitutional actions, which have brought them in collision with the Constitution of this land. They forced us to go to courts on many occasions. They past motions – let us deal with the motions. The first set of motions had to deal with the cutting of the budget and we went to the Court. And, what did the Court rule? The cutting of the Budget was unconstitutional. [Mr. Williams: That is not the motion.] The second motion or the other motion that they moved, was to gag Minister Rohee from speaking in the Parliament. Mr. Speaker, they persuaded you to fall into error and to impose a gag on Minister Rohee.
The court ruled that the gag imposed on Minister Rohee was unlawful. Your Honour ruled that the gag imposed on Minister Rohee was unlawful.
Mr. B. Williams: On a Point of Order. It is the same thing that we have been maintaining. The learned Attorney General distorts the rulings. We have asked him...
Mr. Speaker: With respect...
Mr. B. Williams: On a Point of Order...
Mr. Speaker: One second Mr. Williams. Mr. Nandlall is giving his interpretation of the Court’s order; you have yours. At the appropriate time you can come with your interpretation too.
Mr. B. Williams: As it pleases you, Sir.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed please.
Mr. Nandlall: The only problem is that Mr. Williams is in solitude with his interpretation. That aside, my friend, Mr. Trotman, took the Attorney General to court to deal with the Lotto Funds matter; another issue that Mr. Greenidge spoke about. The judge threw out the case at the preliminary point. If they cannot get the preliminary points correct, how can they get the subsistence correct?
We now come to Mr. Greenidge’s favourite Article, Article 222 (A) of the Constitution. Mr. Greenidge is arguing, and he has a Bill to that effect pending in the House, that the Budget is presented in the wrong format. His argument as I apprehend them is that the items listed in Article 222 (A) namely, the Judiciary, the Rights Commission and the Auditor General Office, they should prepare and present their own budget and they in relations to the others excluding the Auditor General, should prepare and send their budget to the Clerk of the National Assembly, who should present it to this Parliament. In relations to the Auditor General, they should prepare their budget and send it to the Public Accounts Committee, where in this instance, Mr. Greenidge is the Chairman and that he will present the budget. Mr. Speaker, I want to say that if my friend can stand and site a single location on planet earth, where such a position obtains, I take my seat immediately.
Mr. Greenidge: Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact, the presentation to which the distinguished Attorney General is making...
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Nandlall, please take your seat.
Mr. Greenidge: To which the distinguished Attorney General is making reference, had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the process by which the estimates from the individual entities he named: the Auditor General, etc, reached the Parliament. Article 222 (A) does not specify that process. That process has nothing to do with the interpretation. That process is the subject of the Amendment Act. The Constitution by way of Article 222 (A) requires that the Minister of Finance treat the agencies that he mentions, in exactly the same way as they treat the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC). In the Budget Estimates as of now, they are treated differently; illegally so. That is the point, so do not misrepresent what I said. I never directed my attention to the process. The process is in a different...
Mr. Nandlall: Mr. Speaker...
Mr. Greenidge: Can I finish, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker: Yes.
Mr. Greenidge: The process is a subject of a Bill. The legality of whether or not a lump sum payment is reflected in the Estimates is a matter before us. That is what Article 222(A) is about.
Mr. Nandlall: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Greenidge in his presentation cited and accused the Government of a number of things throughout the year that they have passed motions, and that there are Bills we are not obeying. Among the irregularities that he has identified - that is one; I am not dealing with that. I am dealing with a second set of ... [Interruption] [Mr. Greenidge: There was no such section...] Of course, it is in the House here pending. It is a Constitutional amendment as well as an amendment to the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA). I am dealing with that. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: One second. Hon. Attorney General, are you saying that you are responding to statements made by Mr. Greenidge?
Mr. Nandlall: Yes Sir.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Greenidge is saying that he never said what you are claiming.
Mr. Nandlall: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Greenidge made a speech in this House in which he accused the Government a litany of unconstitutionalities. [Interruption] I do not have to walk with Mr. Greenidge’s speech, I made my notes – contemporaneous notes. Sir, my word must have some weight, you pointed out to that. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Let the Member proceed.
Mr. Nandlall: Thank you very much, Sir. The arguments advanced by Mr. Greenidge are completely without merit. The Constitution distributes power and we know it by the doctrine of Separation of Power; the powers of Government into three categories: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. Among those powers distributed to the Executive is the financial responsibility of the State. Among those financial responsibilities is the functional responsibility and obligation of presenting and preparing the National Estimates of Guyana.
In the Constitution, Article 218, says exactly that. Article 218 says:
“The Minister responsible for Finance or any other Minister designated by the President shall cause to be prepared [He shall cause to be prepared] and laid before the National Assembly... [He shall prepare it and lay it before the National Assembly] within ninety days after the commencement of each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of Guyana for that year.”
That is crystal clear. It does not say that you can take it and give it to the Clerk or that you can take it yourself. That is what the Constitution says. What Mr. Greenidge is asking us to do is not an ordinary constitutional breach. He is violating the separation of powers doctrine – foundational constitutional principles – because he is shifting power from the Executive to the Legislature and he is shifting power to himself and he is violating the Constitution. These are not ordinary violations. These are constitutional vulgarities of obscene proportion.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Nandlall, the Member has made to this House a proposal. It is not law. It has not been passed but what you are doing is accusing him of constitutional vulgarity as if of fact these are before the House for consideration; not determined.
Mr. Nandlall: I have also a report from Trinidad and Tobago because this issue arose in Trinidad and Tobago in the year 2000. The then Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago and the Chief Justice had some public exchanges; as a result of which the President of Trinidad and Tobago commissioned an inquiry into the Judiciary and appointed Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who is the Former Lord Chancellor of England – a distinguished gentleman – Justice Austin Amasah and Dr. L. M. Singee and they enquired into various matters concerning the judiciary and this is what they had to say when it came to the question of Finance and the Judiciary. I quote from the report, at page 45:
“The funds required for the judiciary are thus the responsibility of Parliament and decisions about funding require the Executive Government to lay budget before Parliament for approval.”
The Executive Government must lay it.
“The precise form of the budget is a matter for the Executive to consider in proposing and for Parliament to approve it.”
That is what Lord Mackay is saying, the Former Lord Chancellor of England. [Mr. Nagamootoo: ...what process?] Mr. Nagamootoo seems to be brighter than Lord Mackay. The Trinidadian Constitution is identical the Guyanese Constitution; the identical structure exists. The arguments that Mr. Greenidge has made and the accusations which he has levelled against this Government that we are violating the Constitution, that we are violating the rule of law... I have cited several sources – the court ruling in Guyana, Your Honour’s ruling and also a report from the Lord Chancellor of England – all of which vindicate the Government’s position.
To conclude that aspect of my presentation I humbly submit that the arguments of Mr. Greenidge are frivolous, vexatious, wholly misconceived and absolutely wrong.
I now turn to some aspects of the legal sector of our country. [Interruption] Sir, I am being disturbed continuously. I see the aid of your protection.
Mr. Speaker: You are entitled to it, but you are also entitled to give it. I observe that when you were seated there you were very good at making comments to people as they speak, so it is part of the cut and thrust, but you have it because I did say that you have...
Mr. Nandlall: Thank you and if you need mine, Sir, I will give it too.
Mr. Speaker: That is all right.
Mr. Nandlall: I now move to my sectoral responsibility. A responsibility of the Ministry of Legal affairs is the oversight and management of Guyana’s transport, land registrations and business registration systems and institutions. In 2012 our energy had been dedicated to much planning and reform in the law and institutions governing our system of transports, land registration and business registration.
In 2011, the business conducted at just one of those institutions, the Deeds Registry, numbered in excess of 40,000 transactions and included the registration recordings of 11,168 bills of sale, 228 new companies, 5,125 business names, 674 trademarks, 1,813 powers of attorney and 1,650 deeds and 11,094 conveyances and that excludes the conveyance done through the Ministry of Housing. Every single one of these transactions was urgent and life changing to the citizens using the process. Unfortunately, our laws and institutions, as currently constituted, were firstly unable to give the stakeholders the expedient service they deserve; secondly, are unable to keep pace with the increase in commercial transactions in Guyana and, thirdly, are unable to perform with the speed at which business arrangements are required to be made in the increasingly competitive world. To meet the demands of the stakeholders, the increase in commercial transactions and the efficiency and speed with which the commercial transacts are required to be processed we have embarked on a series of sweeping legal and institutional reforms in the following areas: the Deeds Registry, the Companies Registry, the Land Registry, the Business Name Process and the Official Gazette Notice Process.
We are all aware that in 2012 we drafted and piloted and collectively passed – and I extend my gratitude to the other side on this occasion for giving me full support when I brought the Gazette Bill to the National Assembly... [Mr. B. Williams: Call names.] ...the distinguished Members of the Opposition both the AFC and the APNU. That bill was indeed an important aspect of our legal system because, as I explained then, the Official Gazette remained as part of our legal landscape for almost 300 years but in a very haphazard way. That bill has put it on a firm footing but more fundamentally it has allowed access, via the internet, to thousand of Guyanese both in and out of Guyana. It was formally launched, the Official Gazette online, that is, in February, 2013, and so far we have had over 25,000 hits. Every Friday at about 3.30 p.m. one can go onto ones computer and log on to the Official Gazette available for that week. So far just one weekend we have missed and it was the ‘Good Friday weekend’.
The Business Name Registration: In 2012 we also drafted and piloted through the Parliament and passed the Business Name Registration Amendment Bill. It was published in the Official Gazette on the 30th August, 2012, and passed by the Parliament. The purpose of the amending act is to stagger the process of annual renewal of business names using the anniversary dates of their registration, instead of a defined period in January of every year. The rationale was to eradicate the mischief of requiring every single registered business owner to present themselves to the registry in January of every year to reregister. This requirement posed great difficulties for business owners and the registry, itself, and hours and hours were lost and, of course, a number of staff had to be involved. By staggering the process on the anniversary dates we have removed that difficulty.
The Deeds Registry: Another substantial series of reforms have been untaken in relation to the Deeds Registry and the Companies Registry – the vital institutions which are the repository of records of land ownership and all legal commercial transactions in Guyana. As part of a plan for sweeping reform, we propose that the Deeds and Commercial Registries be physically and legally separated and granted some measure of autonomy to facilitate the efficient and expeditious processing of transactions. Approval for that plan was sought from Parliament by the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority Bill which was approved. This will allow us to create a board and that board will take over an assumed administration of these entities; that board is made up of representatives from the private sector, the bar association – both in Georgetown and in Berbice – and representatives of the Government. The purpose of it is to give autonomy and remove it from Central Government.
We have also been engaged in consultations and discussion with the Union and the staff because we have to transition them from Public Servants, now, to employees of a semiautonomous agency. We also have to have discussion with the Public Service Ministry to ensure that there is smooth transition. We will be soon advertising to recruit a commercial registrar with ample qualifications to head the new legally and physically separated Commercial Registry and to institute many reforms in the efficient and expeditious processing and recording of commercial transactions and we also, in July 2012, were able to appoint a qualified attorney at law to act in the position of Registrar of Deeds. This is after a 30-year lapse. That person is in office and, from all indications, is functioning commendably.
The Land Registry is also scheduled for similar transformational. Like the Deeds Registry, the Land Registry has sub-registries in Berbice and Essequibo and the main registry is in Georgetown. The Land Registry, in its current state, is indeed inadequate in terms of human resource personnel as well as technical and other resources to cope with the work load that it is presented with and we have a bill already drafted in similar terms as with the Deeds Registry in which we will again appoint a board and we will similarly constitute that board and the administration of that unit will be run by that board but, importantly, we are going to resource that unit. We are going to physically remove it from both of its locations, in Georgetown as well as in Berbice. In Berbice, for example, it is occupying very cramped conditions below the High Court of New Amsterdam, sharing facilities with the Deeds Registry; facilities that are wholly inadequate. We are going to remove them and put that entity in a new and separate location.
The same will be done for the Georgetown location. It is currently located at Durban Backlands and we are going to remove it and locate it at the former New Building Society building. That building will also accommodate the Commercial Registry which will be physically disengaged from the Deeds Registry. All of these things are intended to bring greater speed and efficiency to the people of our country.
In relation to the Judiciary I would like to ask my friend on the other side, especially my learned friends, to understand the limitations that the Executive operates under in relation to the Judiciary. The Judiciary, as Members would know, is a constitutionally independent body and all that the Executive can do is present available resources but the judiciary largely self regulatory. So to my learned friend, Mr. Bond, the question that he asked about the appointment of the Registrar or the non-appointment of the Registrar and the promotion of people within that structure, he must know that those appointments reside with the Judicial Service Commission – an independent constitutional body – that has no functional connection with the executive and, therefore, to create the impression that the Executive is responsible for appointments made there is completely and wholly wrong.
My learned friend Mr. Williams spoke about there being a concentration of investments in infrastructure in the justice sector and that is indeed correct but we are not singular in our emphasis. We are developing infrastructure as well as every conceivable area that falls under the administration of justice. Our programme, the Justice Improvement Administration Programme, is now coming to an end. The programme has been the agenda of the Legal Affairs Ministry over the last three years and it is now winding up. I agree with my friend that that programme was never intended to address all of the problems of the legal sector but what I can say, emphatically, is it has addressed a tremendous and a substantial number of problems. For the backlog cases alone, I am proud to report, significant dents have been made in the backlog. 12,201 were assigned to judges of the High Court between March, 2012, and December, 2012, and 8,880 cases were disposed of. That is a remarkable achievement in adverse circumstances and it makes the judiciary ready for the promulgation of the new High Court rules. That again is a responsibility of the Judiciary, itself, an organ called the Rules Committee presided over by the Chancellor but I have received the commitment that by July of this year those new rules are going to be promulgated and the reason advanced for the delay was the necessity in the opinion of the Judiciary to address the serious backlog of cases first so, as far as possible, when the new rules are promulgated the playing field would have been more level than it would have been before.
The Georgetown Magistrates’ Court will be completed, finally, this year. My friend lamented about the lack of air conditioning facilities and I want to report that that building has been extended from the original contract. There has been a variation, hence the delay; variation in two respects: Two additional courts have been added to the structure, bringing the total number of courts to be accommodated in that building to ten and each court will be air conditioned.
My friend, Mr. Bond, spoke about the automated recording system to be implemented and I wish to assure this House that in the final stages of the Justice Improvement Programme that that is scheduled to be addressed. We are going to do a pilot project first at the Court of Appeal, at the Chief Justices Court and in the Commercial Court. We are going to utilise the services of the Parliament for guidance and training – the Hansard Division – and, of course, we are in the process of acquiring the equipment and once that is done, and the pilot is successful, the intention is to replicate that in every single court in our country.
The law books are finally going to be made available – I am told by the consultant – by July of this year. They are at the printer and they will look like this. We have also launched the Law Reports earlier this year. We have 14 volumes from 1975 to 2007; this is the hardcopy and then, of course, the soft copy we have online from 1936 to 2007. We have also spoken to the publishers and we are going to annually – it is not going to be this marathon break anymore in the process – ensure, every year, that the Law Reports are going to be updated in a timely manner, hence, they are sold at a particular price. The intension is for the project to be economically viable; the same kind of suggestion Mr. Nagamootoo is advancing for the Demerara Harbour Bridge.
We have upgraded libraries at the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chambers and at the Attorney General (AG) Chambers. The DPP Office has been fully and completely renovated and now the DPP is there and there are accommodations there to accommodate 16 lawyers.
The contract has been awarded already for the construction to begin of a building at New Amsterdam, Main and King Streets. That building will house the DPP Office for the first time in Region 6 and, of course, it will deal with the issues arising in relation to that office in respect of Region 5. Essequibo will have their own shortly, have no doubt about that.
Under the programme we have established civil and criminal justice committees in all three counties – Berbice, Essequibo and Demerara. A secretariat is housed in the Court of Appeal. The appointment of Members of the Committee was done during December, 2012, and it enabled training of these persons during the month of January, 2012, by a firm that helped to design these mechanisms. This is a monitoring unit comprised of various stakeholders and members of the public. The intension is to scrutinise and oversight the functions of the Judiciary.
Of course, we have the paralegal system in the rural communities. That is intended to supplement our legal access to justice because in the interior it is difficult to locate courts at every point where there is an accumulation of population and, therefore, we are dealing with that. We are creating a system that trains people in the interior to preside over the resolution of disputes. [Mr. Nagamootoo: ...lay magistrates] My Friend is asking about the lay magistrate. I have asked the same thing. The decision to implement that lies with the Chancellor of the Judiciary, not the Executive. As an Attorney-at-Law, I suggest that you ask him.
There are wide-ranging reforms that are taking place in the justice sector but a lot more has to be done in terms of modernising our laws, in terms of modernising infrastructure, in terms of modernising systems, in terms of digitising our systems, in terms of injecting technological advances in our systems are all initiative that we have to pursue. It will take time and it will require the support of everyone. It will require the support for Budget 2013 for it to take place. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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