The National Assembly on Thursday relegated the Wildlife Import and Export Bill 2014 to a special parliamentary committee for further consideration owing to several concerns by the opposition, including inadequate consultations.
The proposed legislation, tabled by Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud last December, was due for its second reading Thursday, and the minister said its implementation will correct several deficiencies plaguing Guyana’s wildlife trade sector.
The objectives of the bill are to create a national framework and mechanisms governing the international trade of all species of wildlife in Guyana and to create a supportive mechanism for wildlife conservation and management.
Persaud also said the legislation will bring Guyana into compliance with the standards laid out in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), thereby mitigating any possibility of measures being taken against the country and improve the rating of Guyana’s legislation under the Convention.
Guyana ratified CITES in 1977, and in 1996 the country passed the Environmental Protection Act to regulate the sector. The provisions were inadequate, however, and CITES published a notification which would have eventually led to the refusal of any import from and export or re-export to Guyana of CITES specimens. The notification was withdrawn, though, after Guyana passed the Species Protection Regulations.
This will be a welcome development as there have been notable cases lately where wildlife in Guyana was either shipped in ways incompatible with international regulations, or where there were attempts to smuggle specimens out of the country.
Last December, two shipments of caimans from Guyana were held by Dutch authorities after it was found that the animals were packed in unacceptable conditions. Hundreds of the caimans died and it was also stated that international air transport regulations governing the shipping of animals were breached.
More recently, a man was nabbed at the CJIA airport as he was trying to smuggle 22 live birds in hair curlers.
AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan agreed that the bill is necessary but indicated that the opposition parties have reservations about some of its provisions.
He claimed that his interaction with stakeholders integral to the sector, including trappers and traders, has revealed they have not been adequately consulted. As a result, he continued, there is a fear that the bill may not reflect the needs and opinions of those most important to the sector.
The bill, once implemented, will also necessitate the establishment of a Wildlife Import and Export Authority, which would be designated as the CITES Management Authority for Guyana.
The bill also bestows upon the minister the authority to “designate a group of qualified persons or body to be the Wildlife Scientific Committee which shall be the CITES Scientific Authority of Guyana.”
The Scientific Committee is to be comprised of representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the Ministry of Agriculture; the Wildlife Import and Export Authority; the Guyana Forestry Commission, the University of Guyana (UG), a non-government organisation responsible for the conservation of the environment; and another institution to be selected by the Authority. The Committee will also have the authority to add additional members as it sees fit.
Ramjattan said the opposition parties are concerned that the Committee will, for the most part, be made up of representatives from government entities, and entities in which government has influence. He said this would make it simple for the body itself to be controlled by government, and said he is desirous of having this considered at the level of a select committee as well.
Persaud seemed outraged at Ramjattan’s suggestion that members of the committee would not professionally carry out their mandate, but will instead act in a manner so as to benefit government members and their friends.
Eventually, the opposition parties allowed the bill to be read for a second time, so as to prevent it from being killed. However, as opposed to allowing it to be read immediately for a third time and then passed, the main opposition APNU and the AFC voted to send it to a select committee.
Ramjattan believes that the committee will create a space for stakeholders to visibly express their opinion and have them recorded. He also said that the opposition parties will be satisfied that sufficient consultation would have taken place. Persaud berated Ramjattan for suggesting that there were insufficient consultations.
To prove otherwise the minister indicated his to
provide Ramjattan with the minutes of the consultations which were held. Persaud also said the documents will prove that sufficient consultations were indeed held, and that the positions shared by stakeholders were incorporated into the bill.
Because all of Guyana’s laws currently regulating the wildlife sector are archaic, the bill’s implementation will repeal those laws and stand as the single regulating legislation of the sector.
The above-mentioned aspects of the bill constitute parts I to III.
Part IV and V of the bill deals with regulations to control the breeding, in captivity, of animals for export, and the artificial propagation of plants for the same purpose. Part VI outlines all requirements to be fulfilled before wildlife ranching is undertaken, and the regulations that will control this activity.
Part VII is the largest. This part of the bill deals with all the permits, certification and fees required to engage in every activity related to the the import and export of wildlife. These include: Import Permit; Export Permit and Re-Export Certificate; Certificate for Introduction from the Sea; Application Fees; Offences of importing and exporting; Grounds for refusal to grant permit and certificate; Cancellation of permit and certificate and Non-transferability of permit and certificate.”
The legislation has eight other parts which aim to strengthen control over the various sections of the sector.