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Granger open to hydro-electric bill return but …

Speaker Raphael Trotman conferring with the leaders of the opposition parties during Thursday’s sitting.

Leader of the Opposition David Granger says they are not opposed to the rejected hydro-electric bill being returned to the House this session but that the government needs to move on the measures adopted by the National Assembly to ensure good governance.

The combined opposition Thursday night voted against the Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill and a motion seeking to raise the government guarantee of loans from GUY$1B to GUY$150B. They are both integral to the US$840M Amaila Hydropower Project, the largest investment in Guyana’s history.

“I think the hydropower project is very important and I would support any move to bring it back to the floor but at the same time the government must support legitimate demands of the two opposition parties and that hasn’t happened,” Granger told Demerara Waves Online News Friday.

He identified President Donald Ramotar’s assent to bills passed by the opposition with its majority as a key element in their demands. The president previously indicated that he would not assent to bills that did not include government input and recently rejected two such bills stating they were unconstitutional.

“I don’t want to give you a shopping list but definitely the assent to outstanding bills is critical. We have a situation where the Constitution is being paralysed by the president’s failure to assent to bills which have been passed by the majority and of course there’s been other resolutions.

We have not seen any movement on the Public Procurement Commission, we have not seen any flexibility on the access of the opposition to the state media,” the opposition leader said.

However, he was reluctant to say whether having their demands met was the only way through which they would support the hydro-electric bill saying instead that the government had failed to make good on past commitments.

According to Granger, they have to come to an understanding that when the majority of the House passes measures which do not collide with the Constitution the president has an obligation to assent to them.

The opposition leader said that Thursday’s developments should not be viewed separate from the whole thrust for good governance and they were not prepared to vote on issues with a promise that the others would be dealt with later.

“Yes we want hydropower but we want transparency, we don’t want the Amaila (Project) to turn out to be another Skeldon (Sugar Factory). And we’re interested that the IDB’s due diligence must be examined, it’s not ready as yet.”

The IDB is a potential financier in the project and a team is currently in Guyana. Granger said they had met the officials and they were not given the impression that the bill had to be passed by July 18.

“There is still a window of opportunity that is open and we are prepared to explore that. It was not mentioned by the IDB team that our compliance was necessary by that date and they still have to do their due diligence and that will be ready until October so we’re anxious to move the project forward but the government must show some flexibility,” he concluded.

At a news conference following the sitting Thursday night Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira had noted that there was a slim chance that the bill could be brought back but it would depend on the opposition changing its stance.

Standing Order 69 states, “Once the second reading of any Bill has been agreed to or negatived, no question shall be proposed during the same Session for the second reading of any other Bill containing substantially the same provision.”

However, Standing Order 112 states that “any one or more” of the Orders may be suspended on a motion from a Member.

House Speaker Raphael Trotman told DemWaves Friday that he believed the bill could and should be returned since it was “badly wounded but not dead.”

“I will be stepping out a bit to urge the parties to put the national interest first and above emotions and to bring the Bill back before we go into recess in August.

The National Assembly regulates its own procedure and the Constitution authorises it to do whatever it needs to do to pass laws for the “peace, order and good government of Guyana.” This is one that most definitely falls into that category,” he said.

Harking back to words uttered by former president LFS Burnham in 1957 whilst in opposition Trotman stated: “There are some subjects which are above the pettiness of party differences, and there are some Motions which are so momentous, so far as our country is concerned, that to bandy words across the table is sacrilegious. Such a debate, such a Motion, is this one.”

The amendment to the Act is to ensure that the Amaila Project would be in compliance with the IDB environmental sustainabiity policies.