Local Content Law: Nandlall says Opposition objections ‘myopic’ and ‘unwarranted nitpicking’

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The government on Wednesday accused the opposition APNU+AFC of “unwarranted nitpicking” in its objections to certain aspects of the Local Content Bill.

When the Bill came up for debate Wednesday morning, the Parliamentary Opposition accused the government of failing to properly consult with them, possibly violating regional treaties and leaving loopholes that could allow for discrimination of locals.

But these reasonings, put forward by former Shadow Minister for the oil and gas sector David Patterson, was sternly countered by Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC.

Patterson who opened the debate for the APNU+AFC opposition in the National Assembly started by accusing the government of failing to consult with them.

He said the opposition got the Bill one day before it was tabled in the National Assembly.

Nandlall, who he invited to respond to his claims, did just that and instead said it was the Opposition who stayed away from a full-year of public consultations hosted by the government.

Opposition representatives including Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon also did not show up to a meeting which the government invited them to on Wednesday, just before the debate commenced on the Bill.

The government has moved ahead with agreeing to 10 of 14 amendments put forward by the opposition.

One of the amendments that has given rise to dissent is the opposition’s call for the government to only recognise a Guyanese as someone born here.

Patterson said he would have liked to see specific reference to how dual citizens might be affected and accused the government of offering naturalisation certificates to over 200 persons in the last year; he believes these persons also stand to benefit from the provisions.

According to the Bill, Guyanese national means a citizen of Guyana.

But Nandlall explains that the government was ensuring that the new law does not conflict with existing laws.

He reminded that a person can also become a citizen by marriage, naturalisation and dissent and said the recommendation by the opposition and signed by Patterson were “myopic.”

He also dismissed his claims of discrimination Guyanese based on political affiliation.

“His comments are completely lacking in competence and substance,” Nandlall added.

But another point raised by Patterson included possibility of the law conflicting with regional and international treaties Guyana has already entered into.

He singled out the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the Caribbean Community and Common Market, and said he was concerned that the Bill did not reference the treaty.

“I would like assurances that the country will not face legal challenges after the passage of the Bill… persons in the Caricom community have already signaled that it is conflict with the treaty,” Patterson told the House as he also accused the government of creating a bureaucratic process.

Nandlall said Patterson was being shallow in offering his criticism and pointed to the Local Content laws in Trinidad and Suriname

“It never ran afoul of the Treaty of Chaguaramas… never heard of an issue of violation,” the AG added.

He also pointed to Norway and the lack of conflict in the European Union and several other countries like Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana where there is no conflict with African organisations similar to that of Caricom.

“It’s not that we didn’t address our mind to these things. We have and when an issue arises we will deal with it,” Nandlall told the House.

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