After a lengthy recess, Parliament is to resume on Thursday with an address by President David Granger and the long-awaited tabling of reports from several key inquiries including those into the $632m in drug purchases by the GPHC and the alleged assassination plot against the President.
Granger’s address to Parliament will come amid the deepest political crisis the APNU+AFC government has faced following his unilateral declaration of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). As a result, the PPP/C has declared non-co-operation with the administration and may not be in Parliament for his presentation. Granger’s speech will be parsed for signs of conciliation as observers have argued that the unilateral declaration of a chairman has set back efforts at healing the ethnic and political divide in the country. Civil society has broadly condemned the unilateral naming of 84-year-old retired Justice James Patterson as the GECOM Chairman and western missions here have also offered cautious responses which have said that the matter should be settled swiftly in the courts and that democratic norms should prevail.
Thursday’s sitting will also see the tabling of the Auditor General’s 2016 report on the public accounts but it is the circulating of several reports from the slew of Commissions of Inquiry (CoI) convened by the APNU+AFC government that will evoke great interest.
A key one is the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the alleged plot to kill President Granger. The hearings opened divisions in the police force and the recommendations are said to have called for disciplinary action against a number of senior law enforcers. The government has not declared what it will do with the report.
Other reports to be tabled include those on the Camp Street prison disturbances of 2016 and the 17 deaths that occurred, the deaths of two children at the drop-in centre and on the landing of a foreign aircraft near to Yupukari in Region Nine.
The first ever report by the Public Procurement Commission on the $632m worth of single-sourced medical supplies will also be circulated. Many questions have been raised about who should be held accountable and about the role of the Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence in the matter.
The tabling of the CoI reports will occur on the same day that PPP/C MP and Chief Whip Gail Teixeira was to be provided with answers to a string of questions about the CoIs and the reports. A written reply is also to be presented to another question by Teixeira on the benefits accruing to the country and the cost of trips abroad by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and his delegations.
Thursday’s session will also see the tabling of whistle blower and witness protection bills. The Attorney General, Basil Williams SC will move the first reading of the Protected Disclosures Bill 2017. This is described as an Act “to combat corruption and other wrongdoings by encouraging and facilitating disclosures of improper conduct in the public and private sectors, to protect persons making those disclosures from detrimental actions, to establish the Protected Disclosures Commission to receive, investigate or otherwise deal with disclosures of improper conduct and to provide for other related matters”.
The government had been accused of targeting one such whistleblower, nurse Sherlyn Marks who had reported that a region five councillor with close ties to the governing party was using her position to access painkilling drugs. The nurse was instantly transferred by the Region Five Regional Executive Officer when her complaint was publicized by PPP/C MP Harry Gill.
The AG will also move the first reading of the Witness Protection Bill 2017.