The State Asset Recovery Bill (“Bill”) was passed in the National Assembly on Friday last after a robust debate. It is a bold and vital instrument in the anti-corruption effort, although modern anti-corruption legislation still remains to be addressed. When I wrote in 2012 that the PPP Governments had made efforts to curb corruption, but that by then it had become pervasive and further steps needed to be taken, it was legislation such as this that I had in mind. One of the triggers for my article was the many inquiries made of me for at least two years before my term as Speaker ended in 2010 as to whether AML/CFT legislation was pending. I knew that there was a requirement from CFATF that such legislation be passed but it was only when sanctions were threatened after the 2011 elections that the legislation was finally tabled by the last Government.
Political considerations were mainly responsible for the then combined APNU and AFC Opposition to oppose the AML/CFT Bill, just as political considerations are now mainly responsible for the current Opposition opposing the Bill.
Petronella Trotman is the name adopted by Ronnell Trotman, who is a transgender person. Born a male, she identifies as a female. Two famous transgenders, born as males and now identifying as women, are Caitlin Jenner, an Olympian and television personality, and Chelsea Manning, a soldier who was imprisoned for leaking information to Wikileaks, both of them of the United States. Bruce Jenner struggled for many decades and Bradley Manning, who is much younger, for many years with gender identity issues before formally and publicly adopting the female gender with which they have identified.
A transgender person suffers from a gender dysfunction. He or she identifies with the gender opposite to that assigned to him or her at birth. It has nothing to do with sex. Their sexual preferences do not necessarily change. And it is not the same as homosexuality and lesbianism, which has to do with sexual, not gender, preferences. Homosexuals and lesbians are not transgenders.
Yesterday morning the Stabroek News reported that Plaisance businessman, Kenneth Earle, was shot twice and robbed of $4 million after leaving a city bank.
On Friday last the Kaieteur News reported that Curtis Vasconcellas was one of two suspects captured on the Wednesday before during a high speed chase by police after allegedly grabbing $2.5 million from a Hotel Tower accountant. A security guard was shot by one of the two suspects but the gun was not recovered. The report reminded readers that during an attempted robbery on June 6, 2015, at Grove on the east bank, the 22 year old Vasconcellas was shot in the neck and right arm and his 18 year old accomplice, Michael Grant, was shot and killed. They had allegedly attempted to rob Neezam Khan who, himself, was shot. According to the report, Vasconcellas, apparently refused bail by the Magistrate, was granted bail by the High Court “a few months ago.”
The Government has expressed concern about the level of gun ownership and has linked private gun ownership to the high crime rate involving the use of guns. One argument is that gun owners rent their guns to criminals. There are no statistics or other evidence that is publicly available to link lawful gun ownership to the high level of gun crimes. However, by the end of the 1980s, after strong police action against ‘kick down the door bandits,’ criminals increasingly resorted to the use of firearms. Drug trafficking (remember ‘Taps?’) increased. In 1992 the newly elected PPP/C Government increasing use of firearms licences which had been previously denied to business people and farmers.
The increase in the issue of gun licences in 1992 resulted from what was believed to be the discrimination that attended the issue of gun licences during the era of PNC Governments. From 1992 the PPP/C Government sought to redress the balance, particularly to business people and farmers. There is some evidence that this process slowed at some point, perhaps after those who were considered to have been unfairly deprived had been granted licences. For example, the PPP/C Government declined to accede to the requests for firearms by Corentyne fishermen despite the atrocities, including murders, which were committed against them over many years.
The President’s address to the National Assembly was disappointing. The expectation was that he would use the occasion to announce the Government’s legislative agenda wrapped around policy initiatives for the next parliamentary year. There was a modicum of this. But on the whole it was a political speech, long on political partisanship and short on the solutions to the grave problems facing the nation, which was more appropriate to a political platform. Whoever caused the serious problems facing the Guyanese people, relating to the economy, crime, to name a few, the Government now has ownership of them. The Guyanese people are looking to the Government to solve them, not excuses as to why they cannot be solved. They are frustrated at the increasing hardship and impatience is rising.
There is no evidence that the Government has attached any importance to itself investing in Guyana’s economy or encouraging others to do so. The Government announced at the end of August that ‘almost nine months into the year, less that 50 percent of the 2016 National Budget has thus far been spent.’ No serious explanation was given for this ‘unfavourable’ and ‘embarrassing’ situation. Since it does not appear to have happened before, the question arises as to whether the trained and competent staff under the past administration that had responsibility are still in place or have been removed or hounded out or have left of their own accord. These are stories that are being heard all the time, with some evidence.