Honouring The 21st August, 2012 Agreement Between The Government Of Guyana And The Regional Democratic Council, Region 103187 27 Jun, 2013
HONOURING THE 21ST AUGUST, 2012 AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF GUYANA AND THE REGIONAL DEMOCRATIC COUNCIL, REGION 10
Ms. Teixeira: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I had hoped when I looked at this motion that there would have been discussion on the agreement and what has or has not been done and that we would be dealing here with accountability in that the actual Be It Resolved Clause talks about accountability and that regrettably in this House Ms. Kissoon is the only Member of the Region 10 team that was meeting with the Government post 21st August, 2012, agreement. The other representatives of Region No. 10, Mr. Aubrey Norton and Mr. Sharma Solomon, are not Members of this House and I believe the Ms. Kissoon, having been the scribe for her side as I was the scribe for my side, would have come well prepared for the meeting.
Mr. Speaker: One second, Ms. Teixeira. It is customary and accepted that scribes take notes. Earlier the Member was castigated for being silent so I am now hearing, for the first time, that she is the scribe for this team which would give an explanation as to why she is quiet. You may proceed.
Ms. Teixeira: Well I did not know that scribes do not speak because I am very much a scribe for my party and I speak very much in meetings.
Mr. Speaker: I see.
Ms. Teixeira: Let me say for the PPP, I do not know about any other party. The scribes of the PPP have not been known to be clerks or secretaries. I am sorry. We are political leaders and so the scribes that we have, Dr. Luncheon and myself, tend to be the more notable scribes on the PPP side, are not known for being quiet. I do not believe that the Member being quite has nothing to do with being a scribe but anyway let us not get into that.
Mr. Speaker, let me explain this if you were not a Member and many Members were not here. Regrettably what happened on 18th July and all that happened afterwards and the discussion began with the President, the Leader of the Opposition, the AFC, et cetera and at a certain point the President was advised, in no uncertain terms, that he must negotiate with the Region No. 10 team; not with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) or AFC so prior to the agreement being singed meetings took place with Mr. Solomon, with the Hon. MP, with Mr. Norton and with Dr. Roopnarine and Mr. Nigel Hughes who said they were there as, I guess, observers. The Government’s team, pre-agreement was headed by no less a person than the President, Prime Minister, Minister Benn, Mr. Odinga Lumumba, myself and, from time to time, Minister Ashni Singh; post-agreement. This motion has several paragraphs dealing with pre-agreement and five paragraphs dealing with post and for those who are listening and for those on the other side the agreement that has been tabled in this House is certainly a draft of the agreement,. but it is not and does not convey because it does not have the Prime Minister’s signature and all the other signatures on it but that is just a minute detail.
This motion was tabled and published on 3rd March, 2013, in the midst of discussions between the Government and Region 10; in the mist of it and this is, I believe, is a sign of bad faith because in fact, ironically, it was in February/March that some progress was made on a number of issues so the timing of this motion being tabled in the midst of discussions seem to be saying quietly to the Region No. 10 people “Don’t worry coming to the negotiations anymore”. I will say why I suspect that.
The motion says “The Government must be held solely accountable and responsible for all direct and indirect consequences following from its continued unwillingness to adhere to the letter and spirit of the written August 21st Agreement.” Anybody reading the agreement would have noticed a couple of things. There are eight basic areas of agreement.
The first has to do with the tariff not being increased and being held at the pre-July, 2012, level and will not be changed, it will await the findings and recommendations of the technical team. That is the number one issue in the agreement and that has been upheld. There has been no increase in the tariffs for Region No. 10 pre-July, 2012, as of today. Furthermore, the subsidy for Region No. 10’s electricity was maintained in 2012 and maintained in the 2013 budget so the number one item, which was the Government’s responsibility has been adhered to.
The number two item: The establishment of the technical team. The agreement names people who are part of the technical team and actually names the person who will be Chairperson. We agreed to this by the time we signed on 21st April but the Chairman resigned due to a number of issues, one of which was health I believe, and it was from that time, around September-October of last year, that there were attempts to find a person and agree to the Chairperson between the two sides who would head the technical team. The staff of the technical team and the staff of the economic team were being paid. The office, as Mr. Benn spoke about, is at Colgrain House. Even Mr. Norton, on several occasions wanted to ensure that the staff who were being paid were being paid despite there were no teams functioning and he was assured of that. The outstanding issue is the technical team Chairperson. The rub in the whole thing is... The linkage between the findings of the technical team and any increases or no increase for the tariff so if the technical team cannot find the Chairperson that we agreed to then the technical team cannot be sent up. Therefore, ipso facto there can be no change or no recommendation or no finding in relation to the issue of tariff issue in Linden and in relation to electricity. Right? I will come back to Minutes and prove what I say. I told you all that I am a scribe and I hold to that job with my life. That is an issue outstanding.
The third area of agreement, the economic programme and the Economic Committee: The members were appointed in September, 2012. The Chairperson was appointed in March, 2013, and the irony of this whole thing is that when we were naming people for the economic services the name of a young lady was put forward, the Government put forward its names and our names were rejected and then more names came forward and the Opposition had one name that they proposed and eventually, at a subsequent meeting, we said ‘Okay, we will go with your name.’ Do you know, Mr. Speaker, that that lead to another month’s delay to figure out why the Government was suddenly supporting the Opposition’s name? Subsequently the person was... We then had to wait one whole month for them to come back and say ‘We accept the fact that you like the name we gave and we are not agreeing to the fact that you like the name we gave you.’ Hence, the person was appointed. Economic Services is functioning and in the Economic Services terms of agreement are the issue of LEN and LEAP. They are in the agreement at sub-clause (b) on page 2. That was joint.
There were two areas of joint work. One was done. One is not done. The name of the Chairperson – not done; Economic – Committee named, functioning, etcetera.
The fourth area of the agreement, NDI, West Watuka: This was the Government’s responsibility and in the Minutes of the meetings... I must say that the minutes of all the meetings, the Government notes of these meetings, were shared with the Leader of the Opposition. Dr. Luncheon, whether I took notes or whether he took notes, once the notes were finalised for our side... We shared our notes. There did not have to be anybody agreeing whether our notes were right or not but they were shared with the Leader of the Opposition with respect to him in terms of the position he holds and fact that his party was part of the negotiation. In the minutes Mr. Sharma Solomon accepts that the agreement West Watooka and National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) was concluded as of December last year.
The fifth area was a Region No. 10 responsibility to submit project for consideration. It is on page 3 of the agreement, the second paragraph on the bottom. It was agreed that the Region will identify and submit other projects. This is after drainage and irrigation of West Watooka for consideration that will bring the fastest benefit to the people of Linden and Region No. 10. This was not done. Region No. 10 has not provided that. What Mr. Norton walked with was his own developmental plan for Region No. 10 which are macro things that would cost... not projects that could bring the fastest... The agreement says “the fastest benefit to the people in Region 10” because the economic committee was to look at long term, medium and short term development of Region No. 10; not just Linden. Region No. 10 did not have that done.
Land Selection Committee: That was a Region No. 10 responsibility according to the agreement that is attached to this motion. In subsequent meetings it was raised all of the time ‘What is happening with this?’ because Region No. 10 is to set up the Regional Land Selection Committee. The terms of reference were only agreed to in April, 2013, and I believe that now it is starting as Dr. Rupert Roopnarine said; it is now starting to work. That is a Region No. 10 responsibility.
The six area of responsibility, Region No. 10: This is to do with a dish and transmitter and the license. This document was also shared with the Region No. 10 team and, I believe, the Leader of the Opposition. These are notes with regard to the television station in Linden going back to the 1980s. “1985, management of GuyMine made a decision to purchase television station for the Linden community to assist to improve the quality of life which is at a lower level and migration of workers was high due to low salaries.” Please note that this was 1985. “The RC justification and the purchase is attached.” These are the quotations. “Cost of the project was $655,000 ”. “Green Overseas Corporation, an American company that was engaged in contract stripping for GuyMine advanced the payment for the station and was subsequently reimbursed by GuyMine.” Hence this view that is going around confusing Linden People that the Green Corporation made a gift is not true; GuyMine bought it. “The items purchased were a television 25-foot dish, 110-foot tower, a 10 W transmitter, monitor, satellite receivers, etcetera. The TV station was operated by GuyMine Public Relations Department. Around 1993 with MinProc in charge of the bauxite operations in Linden unbundling of non-bauxite activity started and the operation of the TV station was transferred to Bidco Auxiliary Services. Bidco Auxiliary Services subsequently bought a second dish, a 20-foot 1100 W coning transmitter, satellite receiver, et cetera. In 1996 the TV station was transferred. In 2006 there was a fire and all items were destroyed except the two dishes and the tower. After the fire the components were replaced by National Communications Network (NCN) and they started back TV broadcast in Linden, operating out of a 40-foot container loaned by LinMine Secretariat. The 20-foot dish was subsequently relocated to Watooka and the tower was relocated outside the Region to Annai for radio stations for that region. The first 20-foot dish bought through the Green Arrangement still remains at the original Richmond Hill Site. The agreement calls for the handing over of the transmitter and dish. The minutes of meetings show that the transmitter and dish have been handed over.” The interpretation of what ‘handing over’ means: The dish and transmitter, or what is left of it... The dish is alright, the transmitter... The handover of something that is tonnes in weight...” Hence the Region acknowledges that the dish and transformer are theirs. The problem that came up in the discussion was the land. Since December, 2012, they wanted to have the land surrounding the dish and transmitter and they were told ‘come to us with the proposals because the land is much bigger and had other things on it other than the transmitter.’ Whilst it was not part of the agreement, we were willing to talk. As of December, 2012, they have not come with the measurements or any proposal to do with the land but the transmitter and dish are no longer the property of what was the LinMine, that is bauxite, and the Government; hence Government.
The broadcasting licensing issue has been discussed by Ms. Shadick but to add to that in the last meeting of 22nd March Region No. 10 agreed to submit the outstanding documentation that the process required, to Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS) for onward transmission to the governing board of the GNBA. A two-week time frame was proposed, 22nd March. To date you have heard Ms. Shadick speak; I have nothing further to say on that.
The eight area of the agreement, to develop modalities: This was a Region No. 10 commitment to develop modalities of improving and working with Government in relation to the interest of people of Linden, etcetera. This was a Region No. 10 commitment that it would, in the last paragraph of the agreement, “develop modalities to work closely with the relevant Ministries and communities in Linden to ensure there is better communication, knowledge and involvement with regard to investments and land developments in Region No. 10.”
Whilst Region No. 10 may not have done this because they have not indicated whether they have or not or what modalities they wish to implement or to suggest. I am aware that Ministers have been collaborating with the region and the communities and Community Development Officers (CDOs) to work on a number of initiatives in Region No. 10.
It is not I who opened the door with this motion, but once the door is opened I will give the following information. No meetings were held between August 22nd, 2012 and November 1st, 2012. There were many email exchanges with regards to nominations for both sides, for two chairpersons, which I have already spoken about and for economic and technical teams. I have the copies of all the emails. I do not trust electronic storage totally nor do I trust hard copy storage always.
Between October 17th, 2012 and March 22nd, 2013, there were 17 occasions where the Region No. 10 representatives were either unavailable for meetings or the meetings were either postponed or cancelled. On three occasions, the Government sought new dates or requested postponement to a different date. Between August 22nd, 2012 and March 22nd, 2013, there were seven meetings held between the Government of Guyana and the Region 10 representatives. I have all the minutes here. There are seven minutes and I can go for each one of them. I can give you from October 17th, the amount of times, dates set, meetings postponed before the people arrived or meetings postponed while you were sitting waiting there. They had the Prime Minister of this country sitting and waiting. The Prime Minister is not an ordinary man or woman like me; the Prime Minister is a king pin in Guyana and must be so and they had him sitting like a little boy, waiting for Mr. Sharma, Mr. Norton and Ms. Kissoon to arrive. [Mr. Ali: Why did we allow this disrespect?] Well that is a different issue that history will have to decide whether we were right or not.
The minutes show a different story. In the minutes, not only did we stick to the agreement, there were ancillary issues raised. Whilst some meetings were hard in October, November and December, by February/March we were getting somewhere and in the midst, “boop”, here comes this motion to say bad faith - you are not implementing. Maybe that is why Mr. Lumumba made the comment he made.
The issues of Drainage and Irrigation (D&I), despite the West Watooka, the minutes say and show, that Mr. Solomon accepts in December. I know because I have worked with Mr. Solomon at the Ministry of Agriculture and NDIA to get those West Watooka contracts, which he wanted to have done. Mr. Solomon admits that those works were concluded and being a politician that he is, he looks for new things and I can live with that, but that was not part of the agreement.
We also looked and the Linden/Soesdyke Highway, issues were raised there. We even had a very interesting sociological discussion at the last meeting [Member: Was it taekwondo?] Well sociology and complex human behaviour, in relations to what was going on in the school system in Linden and violence. It did not become an issue that Government should do this and the Region should do that, it was, ‘let me sit and realise how complex this situation was’. You felt as if you were getting somewhere, way beyond. So when persons hear philosophised, about trust and building trust, what harm the trust that was working in those discussions, that was embryonic and started this, this motion before this House? Ironically, the talks stopped after that.
Mr. Solomon broke contact with us; he was not in contact with us until two weeks ago. Dr. Luncheon was trying to reach him, suddenly to find out he has a new address, new this and new that, that none of us knew about.
I do not want to get into no proof story business. When you bring a motion to this House, bring it with the facts. If you are going to say, “The Government” because this is what this says, I did not write it, you did, Ms. Kissoon, when the actually agreement does not give the Government full responsibility for all the areas. Region No. 10 had its responsibility too. I can forgive Mr. Granger for not being totally informed, maybe even Dr. Roopnarine, maybe Rev. Morian because what is clear or experienced during the July/August, 2012 period, was that the left hand and right hand were not communicating.
Here we were sitting in meetings, the President, Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Public Works and Communication and the two Advisors to the President. We were discussing and it looked as if we were getting somewhere and then we see in the newspapers, the report of what the people were told. The people were being told what was going on in the meeting with us. It seems to me that this is a perpetuation, further than the people of Linden, but even within the ranks of the leading Opposition party. We did not even seem to know what was going on in the talks.
I am going to make it very clear and I am saying it very clearly. In fact, I was not going to say this, but I have been sorely tempted. I was asked to provide the minutes for the young lady because she lost her minutes; the Hon. Member who is tabling the motion. I advised her to please go to the Leader of the Opposition, who has the minutes and that she could tell him that she lost the minutes. I would not like to tell my President that I lost my minutes to tell the truth. [Interruption]
I am not going to philosophise about trust and about National unity and Government and National unity. I have been around too long and a part of too many discussions on that to use this forum to philosophise. Maybe at another forum we can talk about it; about trust building and the embryonic way. Trust and confidence building is about small baby steps, one at a time, sometimes two steps forward and three backwards to be able to build trust. Once that trust is ruptured or cracked it is very hard to start all over again.
Therefore, I have been wondering, what was the intention behind this motion? Was it merely to politically say to the people of Linden and the people of Region No. 10, “We got the motion in Parliament, it shows them they aint accountable.”? And the people do not know what a part of it was.
There is also the other issue of what the motion was about, that this was just another whipping boy; another opportunity to have one-ups-man-ship and to talk. People talk about what is being said in the media that is wrong and that they have been under attack and so on, but Mr. Speaker, I am not attacking anyone. I have the minutes, the emails, the records and the signatures. You can come and tell me otherwise.
Mr. Speaker, I am disturbed and you said you will look at it, about the issue of comments that were made. Just for the edification of the younger Members of this Parliament, on both sides. Since 1976, the Government of Guyana right through to 2013 - various Governments, successive Governments - has sat on the United Nations (UN) committee on the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people; thirty seven years. It has nothing to do with today my friend. It has to do with a political consciousness of Guyana, whether under the People’s National Congress (PNC) or the PPP, to stand up politically and internationally on certain issues. Let me name some of them: against the Vietnam War, for the Palestinians; against apartheid, just to name three. There were many others. [Mr. B. Williams: [Inaudible]] I did not raise the Palestinian issue my dear Mr. Williams, your side did. [Ms. Shadick: The Hon. Member.] Hon. Member, Mr. Williams.
Considering all the factors, the history and the experiences we had of the eight areas of agreement, one, two, three, four areas have been done. Of the three areas by the Region, one area has been done. Of the one, two, three areas of the Government, three areas have been done. Of the two areas that were joined, one area has been done. The one area with GNBA, you heard the head talk about the work that is going on.
I therefore call on the Opposition, it would be best and wise, it may not be best for you, but it will be wise for all, to withdraw this motion. No hard feelings, no problems, but it would be wise to withdraw this motion. As I said, if there was a political agenda out there it is probably not best to withdraw the motion. Therefore, we will judge from the results at the end of the debate.
This motion is flawed; it did not represent to this House what were the issues in the agreement, yet it called for the agreement to be implemented and put the onus on one partner alone, as it said “solely responsible and accountable”.
Therefore, on these ground, the Government side cannot support this motion. Thank you very much. [Applause]
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