Opposition Leader Robert Corbin yesterday urged the government to pursue the full reconstitution of the Integrity Commission, as consultations began for the filling of two vacancies including the chairmanship of the body.
Corbin made the appeal during a meeting with Prime Minister Samuel Hinds at the Office of the President (OP), where he was invited to participate in consultations to “reconstitute” the Commission. Hinds is performing the functions of President. Corbin later told reporters that at the meeting the government proposed two nominees to fill vacancies including that created by the resignation of Bishop Randolph George. Bishop George, who is still officially the Chairman of the commission, has retired from public life. He resigned the chair of the Commission in 2006, but it was not acknowledged by President Bharrat Jagdeo, who hoped he would stay on. “I believe the most responsible approach on the matter would be for us to consult on the appointment of an Integrity Commission of Guyana,” Corbin, however, said, emphasising that it should have the full confidence of all the people and be endorsed by all stakeholders.
He added that it is “essential” that a body seeking probity in public life fulfil all the requirements of the law. Corbin filed a lawsuit challenging the appointment of the current members of the commission, arguing that he was not consulted on them in keeping with the provisions of the law. He said if filling the two vacancies is the only process the government is engaged in, then there would only be two “legitimate” members of the commission. “So, I urge the government to consider this process of consultation as one which would involve… reconstitution of the entire Integrity Commission,” he said, adding that even if the same nominees were reproduced, the proper legal procedure would have at least been followed. He also said he would consult with other opposition parties so that he could give an informed response on the two nominees.
Corbin was “very optimistic’ that the government would use the opportunity to “make things right” and did not want to comment on what the party would do in the event that the consultations are limited to the two current vacancies. He, however, reminded that the legal challenge, filed since 2005, remains before the court.
The government and the opposition have been at odds over the commission and its membership after President Jagdeo issued a public ultimatum to Members of Parliament (MPs) to submit declarations of their assets and liabilities or face public outings and criminal charges if found in default. Both the PNCR and the AFC accused the president of trying to usurp the authority of the commission, which has been in virtual limbo since as a result of the dispute over the legal tenure of its members. The PNCR has taken a position centred on its challenge to the commission’s legality and the party’s executive has instructed its MPs against submitting declarations until a decision. Corbin yesterday denied a claim by the President that he had been submitting declarations in contrast to the party’s position.
He challenged the head of state to provide proof and he questioned whether matters privy to the commission are also privy to the President.
Subsequently, the resuscitation of the commission was announced by Jagdeo last Monday, when he said the government would seek to ensure that there were no excuses to prevent the opposition parliamentarians from making declarations to the commission.
Meanwhile, the AFC has indicated that its MPs have begun receiving packages from the Integrity Commission in the proper manner, and as before, would be submitting their declarations accordingly.