Friday, July 30, 2010

Motion on indigenous peoples commission carried

Opposition objects to forestry’s James Singh

GUYANA - A motion which paves the way for the appointment of persons to sit on the long-awaited Indigenous Peoples’ Commission (IPC) was yesterday passed in the National Assembly though opposition members of parliament objected to an appointee nominated by the government.

Chair of the Standing Committee on Appointments, PPP/C MP Gail Teixeira, moved the motion which sought the adoption of the eighth report of the standing committee to address matters relating to the nomination and appointment of members of the IPC.

However, the opposition objected to Commissioner of the Guyana Forestry Com-mission (GFC), James Singh, as a nominee shortlisted to sit as a member of the IPC, with the PNCR terming his nomination “a breach of faith”.

Dr George Norton, speaking on behalf of his party, stated that the past 20 months of meetings held between committee members were undertaken to appoint persons to the IPC. He said that among the entities nominated by the Standing Committee, and which were identified as appropriate bodies for consultation on the appointment of persons as members of the commission, was the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security (MHSSS). That ministry then submitted Singh as its nominee to sit on the IPC.

Norton said that the party does not “have anything against Singh as a person”, but according to him the GFC Commissioner does not operate within the ambit of the MHSSS goals. He made reference to concerns by persons from interior locations who have had problems regarding the uplifting of their pensions and according to him, the party was told that having someone from the MHSSS would allay such fears expressed by residents from those locations.

AFC MP Sheila Holder while addressing the issue, stated that she viewed the matter, “with bad taste by the kind of politics played by the government”. She said that the IPC has been in the making for some 9 years and according to her, the party viewed Singh’s appointment to the IPC as breach of trust. “It puts him on the IPC through the back door”, she said of the government.

Holder said that during deliberations, it was agreed that the MHSSS was eligible as an agency to have a sitting member on the IPC, and she noted that it was “simply bizarre to argue that Singh years of expertise” was equivalent to those persons employed by the ministry.

She said the decision casts doubts on the experience and ability of persons employed by the agency, adding that, “it has to be noted that it is being used for the second time”, as she made reference to government spokesman Kwame McKoy being appointed as a member of the Rights of the Child Commission (ROC).

Teixeira said that the appointments are based upon provisions set out by the Constitution and she noted that the Constitutional Reform Commission made compromises on several issues. Amid heckling, Teixeira said that commissioners are expected to be fair independent and transparent.

She said that when the entities were written to by the Standing Committee, they were asked to nominate an individual and at no point, as a representative of the agency, and as such she said that the matter of breach of faith does not hold. As chairperson, Teixeira said that she could not use her position to determine who the agencies put forward as their nominee and called on the National Assembly to adopt the report.

The IPC is one of four rights commissions established in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana, with its primary functions being to promote and protect the rights of indigenous people, raise awareness of their contributions, and the problems they face as well as to make recommendations on economic and education policies to advance the interest of the indigenous people, among others.

The other persons nominated to sit on the IPC are, PPP/C MP Norman Whittaker, David James, Matilda Saigo, Patricia Singh, George Simon, Captain Gerald Gouveia, Damian Fernandes, Father Malcolm Rodrigues and Toshaos Yvonne Pearson, Marco J De Souza and Doreen Jacobis.

Source: Stabroek News

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