Opposition MPs’ disruption of Parliament a ‘violent assault on democracy’- Pres. Ali


The recent APNU+AFC opposition-led disruption of the National Assembly, including the seizure of the Speaker’s Mace, has been deemed an assault on Guyana’s democracy by President Dr. Irfaan Ali.

“What we witnessed in the National Assembly was not only a violent assault on democracy but blatant disrespect for the highest law making institution for our nation,” President Ali said during his virtual New Year address on Friday.

The actions of several members of the opposition have come in for strong condemnation from many. Those MPs attempted to stop the debate and eventual vote on the government’s amendments to the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Act.

This Act governs Guyana’s oil wealth fund, including how the revenues accumulated will be saved and spent.

But their actions were unsuccessful as the amendments were passed on Wednesday. And, on Thursday, President Ali signed the new NRF Bill into law.

The President, during his address, once again championed this legislation. He stated that the amendments allow for greater transparency in the management of massive oil revenue because the Finance Minister is no longer wholly empowered to manage the Fund.

The amendments also allow for the creation of a new Board of Directors, for which a nominee will be selected by the National Assembly and another from the private sector.

PPP MPs created a barrier to protect Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh as he presented the NRF Bill during the ruckus in the National Assembly (Photo: December 29, 2021)

This decision-making did not exist in the previous NRF Act that was passed after the previous APNU+AFC government had been defeated by a no-confidence motion.

Importantly, too, the President said that the new law now allows Guyanese to benefit from the oil wealth since some of those funds will be used for national projects and programmes.

“It is for that reason that the new legislation provides a mechanism for which the Parliament will approve the use of the fund for projects and programmes that the government will carry out,” he explained.

And so he chastised the Opposition for being against the government’s moves to raise people’s “standard of living”.

Before their disruption, opposition MPs called for the Bill to be sent to a Special Select Committee so that their concerns could be ventilated. Some civil society bodies also expressed concerns about the Bill, particularly about the provisions that allow withdrawals of large sums of money.

As per the new law, the government can, in the first instance, withdraw all oil revenues accumulated in the NRF, in the year that the new law comes into force and thereafter a limit will be set for future withdrawals.

President Ali has promised before that this does not mean that the government will raid the Resource Fund.

And during his New Year address, he re-emphasised that all expenditure has to be reported, approved by the National Assembly and even later scrutinised by the Auditor- General and the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

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