President yet to assent to two contentious bills

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By Devina Samaroo

President David Granger is yet to assents to two contentious Bills which were recently passed by the government majority in the National Assembly.

These are the Tobacco Control Bill 2017 and the Broadcasting Amendment Bill 2017, both of which were greeted with intense criticisms from the parliamentary opposition and respective stakeholders.

The Parliament Office of Guyana confirmed to the News Room that it dispatched the Bills to the President on August 9. According to Article 170 of the Constitution of Guyana, the President has 21 days upon receipt in which he shall assent to the Bill.

The Constitution states that where the President withholds his assent, he shall return it to the Speaker within the 21 days, stating reasons why he withheld his assent.

In those circumstances, the Bill shall not be presented again unless within six months of the Bill being so returned upon a motion supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all elected members of the National Assembly.

The Tobacco Control Bill was passed on July 28 while the amendments to the broadcasting law were passed on August 4.

The anti – tobacco legislation which was presented by Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence was heavily criticised by the Demerara Tobacco Company (Demtoco) which raised concerns with the financial implications on street vendors and the invasion of privacy through a clause which restricts smoking in the home.

Even in light of these concerns, Lawrence stood by the Bill while other organisations argued that Demtoco is only trying to frustrate the process for personal gains.

Furthermore, international and local organizations along with private broadcasters have condemned the amendments to the broadcasting laws, expressing similar concerns of financial implications and infringement on press freedom.

President Granger however had disregarded those concerns and maintained that the Broadcasting Amendment Bill was necessary. News Room understands that private broadcasters are being encouraged to legally challenge the amendments once the President grants his assent to the Bill.

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