A motion by PNCR leader, Robert Corbin to have the business of the House adjourned to debate what he described as “the financial crisis in Guyana caused by the distress of CLICO, Hand-in-Hand and other entities” as a matter of urgent public importance was denied by Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran yesterday.
Ramkarran, however, stressed that he is not denying that the matter is urgent but it does not fall within the rules of the House and there are other ways that it can be brought before the National Assembly for debate including by a three-day notice. The PNCR-1G has since indicated that it would choose this way to bring the matter before the Assembly.
Corbin’s request came in the wake of revelations yesterday that Commissioner of Insurance, Maria van Beek had secured an order from the High Court to place CLICO (Guyana) under judicial management prior to winding up of the company. The National Assembly was in its final day of consideration of the 2009 estimates of expenditure by the Committee of Supply.
Corbin, in moving his motion to have the assembly adjourned to debate the matter, said that it is now well known that the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is exposed, by some $6B or more than 20% of its funds accumulated by the Scheme over 40 years, invested in CLICO.
He declared that other investors and policy holders can lose billions of dollars if the problems were not resolved. “The problem is clearly a Caribbean one”, he stated.
The opposition leader asserted that in the face of the developments, the two principal regulators namely the Commissioner of Insurance and the Bank of Guyana have been silent, and in the past few weeks were only stating that the situation is being “monitored”. He pointed out that President Bharrat Jagdeo and the Minister of Finance had also adopted the same position since the news of CLICO’s parent company, CL Financial’s woes were publicized over a month ago.
“I have no doubt that the matter qualifies as definite, urgent and public importance because Guyanese workers pensions and savings are in jeopardy and the government has been at least, less than forthright with our citizens. It is my understanding that based from news in the courts this morning that the government has belatedly moved to the court today but the nation is still in the dark with respect to these developments. Consequently the National Assembly of the Parliament needs to address this matter urgently and I believe that the entire nation, the workers and the people who have billions invested in CLICO must be very worried”, said Corbin.
He added that he was certain that Members of Parliament have a vested interest in the matter and declared that it deserves and needs to be addressed urgently.
In denying the motion, however, Ramkarran said that while it is a very important matter and concerns a large number of people in Guyana and also organizations, the importance and urgency of the matter is one aspect. The other aspect, he said, is whether it falls under the rules of the House to interrupt the business of the House to have a debate on the matter of urgent public importance.
The Speaker pointed out that a debate in the House is not the only urgent way in which a matter of that nature can be treated and while not denying the urgency of the matter, said that the question is whether it falls within the rules of the house to be debated under the specific standing order.
“In my view it doesn’t fall under that rule and as I indicated to you, I cannot allow the business of the house to be interrupted to have this debate”, he stated.
In a press release last evening, the PNCR indicated that another Motion on the matter will be tabled in the National Assembly under another Standing Order which could permit it to be debated in three days time.