Broadcast, FOI bills to be tabled this month

-Luncheon

Long-delayed broadcast legislation, expected to facilitate the establishment of a broadcast authority, and Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation are among bills to tabled when the new parliamentary session begins.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon said that on Tuesday Cabinet made the decision on the bills, which would be tabled this month in the National Assembly when the annual parliamentary recess ends. The two bills have been the source of much contention over the years as the opposition parties have continued to press government to table the bills, while seeking to iron out concerns about the draft provisions.

In 2001, the Advisory Commission on Broadcasting (ACB) was established based on an agreement between then PNCR leader and President Bharrat Jagdeo, pending the passage of broadcast legislation and the setting up of a broadcast authority.

The ACB was set up with the objective that broadcast legislation would be enacted within a specific timeframe, and to this end, a joint committee on radio monopoly, non-partisan boards and broadcasting legislation was established. The joint committee in its report had laid out the general parameters for the drafting of the legislation and the Attorney General’s Chambers drafting section had used those parameters and studied legislation from other countries in preparing a draft. This draft was published in the daily newspapers and members of the public and other stakeholders were invited to submit suggestions. None was ever received.

The PNCR has claimed that the draft deviated from the joint committee’s report on the general parameters and the President, in seeking to find a consensus, agreed to a government-opposition team discussing the legislation to reconcile differences, however these were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, PNCR as well as GAP/ROAR have both publicly pledged their support for the FOI legislation and according to Alliance for Change (AFC) leader Raphael Trotman his party has always indicated its willingness to engage the governing party on advancing the legislation. The AFC, which had tabled its own draft FOI Bill, has been publicly reminding the administration about its promise to introduce the legislation.

Another important bill to be tabled is the New Building Society (NBS) Amendment Bill, which would facilitate greater supervision of the Bank of Guyana over the NBS. Dr Luncheon said emphasis would also be placed on furthering the reforms in the financial sector with the tabling of the Electronic Transaction Bill, which would lay the groundwork in establishing the use of the internet to conduct government and private business as it is being done with personal business.

The Credit Reporting Bill, by which credit financial bodies would have legal and legitimate ways of identifying and sharing information about credit behavior, will also be tabled. Also to be tabled are the Business Names Registration Amend-ment Bill, the Companies Amendment Bill and Regulations, the Deeds Registry Amendment Bill, and the Official Gazette Bill, all intended to lay the statutory framework for electronic filing in the registration and the incorporation of businesses in Guyana.

In the security sector, the Maritime Zone Bill would be tabled to replace the existing Boundaries Act, while the Legal Practitioner Amendment Bill and the Juvenile Justice Bill would be introduced to reform the justice sector.

Other key items on the government’s legislative agenda include the Consumer Protection Bill, the Disability Bill, the Rice Factory Assessment Bill and the Livestock Development Authority Bill. “These bills on the priority list will be tabled and will join other bills that have already been tabled and are being discussed at the level of select committee of parliament,” Dr Luncheon said.

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