President canvasses support from Granger on parliament items

-Ramjattan declines to attend meeting, cites lack of progress on AFC’s demands

President Donald Ramotar yesterday met with Opposition Leader David Granger and sought support for items on today’s parliamentary agenda but AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan stayed away from the talks, saying the government has not addressed his party’s demands.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Leader David Granger last evening told Stabroek News that there are several contentious matters that will be engaging the attention of the National Assembly in the coming weeks and the government expressed an interest in working with the opposition parties on a cooperative approach, especially in light of recent disagreements. The opposition controls Parliament by virtue of a one-seat majority.

Ramjattan told Stabroek News last evening that his party decided against attending the meeting because of its dissatisfaction with how government has treated its demands.

He said that the government still has not taken steps to establish the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), and the president is yet to reconsider his veto of two opposition bills which were passed in the National Assembly earlier this year.

“He (the president) did invite me to the meeting and he asked for support for what will be happening there (in Parliament today). I told him that I would not be attending the meeting and that we would not be supporting what they will be doing (today),” Ramjattan shared.

It is likely that Ramjattan was making reference to the motion to raise the debt ceiling from $1b to $150b.

Last week the AFC indicated that it would not be supporting the initiative for several reasons and Ramjattan yesterday made it clear that his party’s position on this matter had not changed. AFC Chairman Nigel Hughes, at a press conference last week, had said that the party believes the rationale for the increase is so that the debt created by the Amalia Falls Hydropower Project could be accommodated.

The party had also said that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) would have to approve of the project before it considers changing its position.

The motion requires a majority vote by the members of the National Assembly, and though the AFC has indicated its intentions to withhold support for the bill, it can still go ahead if  APNU decides to vote with the government.

It is uncertain if this will happen however, as Granger made it clear that nothing was settled in yesterday’s meeting as it relates to coordinating a collective approach to matters that are to be considered in the National Assembly.

The AFC has increasingly taken a hardline position on the government and this has left APNU having to consider whether to work with the PPP/C on compromises so that important legislation can be passed. The AFC preconditioned any support for the bill amending anti-money laundering laws on the establishment of the PPC and Ramotar rescinding his decision not to assent to two opposition bills. APNU on the other hand said it would carefully assess the merits of the controversial anti-money laundering bill and forward amendments.

Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh on June 13 tabled a Motion to increase the limit on total guarantees that can be issued under the Guarantees of Loans (Public Corporations and Companies) Act from $1 billion to $150 billion or approximately US$730 million as a means of guaranteeing that the Guyana Power and Light is able to purchase the power that the Amaila Falls hydroelectric facility will generate.

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