Parliament should be strengthened

Dear Editor,

For years we have been constantly calling for strengthening the institution of Parliament to make it a fierce watchdog of the people’s interest, and monitoring spending by cabinet, public servants and state enterprises. Parliament should not merely be a tool of the cabinet; it must ensure the effective supervision of public expenditure to achieve transparency, accountability, good governance and lack of corruption. Further, parliamentary committees must be empowered with the authority and resources to investigate malfeasance and recommend criminal investigations into the possible misconduct of public officials, including ministers.

The majority opposition must ensure, for the sake of the people that the minority PPP Government is constitutionally obligated to conduct negotiations with the Parliament on the annual budget, national policies and legislation instead of the ritual of useless and senseless debate with its hollow posturing and grandstanding with the PPP Government always getting its way. When will the opposition act?

We called for the transformation of Parliament from its current fish market rowdiness into the real august house it ought to be. Parliament should not be used for MPs to insult or abuse each other in the way Minister of Education Priya Manickchand did to APNU MP, Mr Jaipaul Sharma that caused him to resign. The Minister ought to know that she should lead by example if she wants the children of Guyana to do the same. How can she rebuke any child who misbehaves in the school? Is this the case of do what I say and not do what I do?

We need a Parliament with dynamism, independence and creativity; a Parliament liberated from the dominance by the government. We would like to point out that since independence in 1966, we have had massive waste, gross mismanagement and malfeasance, and our Parliament has done absolutely nothing to stop it. And in the period since Mr Jagdeo assumed power in 2000, millions of dollars have been wasted or cannot be accounted for. We need parliamentary committees with the power to summon any public official to an enquiry, where non-attendance or perjury are offences. Instead our impotent and manipulative Parliament facilitates corruption and does not have the power to prosecute anyone.

What is happening is that huge amounts of money are being allocated, spent, wasted or stolen, and no one is held accountable, because the Parliament is not functioning as a supervisory body. This is not what the people voted for.

Our MPs produce good deeds only when it profits them but very rarely do they truly put the people’s interest first. And that is the reason why there are hardly any good politicians in Guyana. Most are driven by selfishness and not by the genuine caring for their country and countrymen, especially the poor and the working class.

There is no one in the regime who is regularly high sounding in their public statements on integrity and principled politics. They cannot explain why after more than seven years, they have not established the Public Procurement Commission or only last year brought the amended anti-money laundering bill to the National Assembly. Had they established the Public Procurement Commission and passed the anti-money laundering legislation we might not have had such massive corrupt practices and Guyana would not have been blacklisted either.

Yours faithfully,
Asquith Rose
Harish S Singh

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