Ministry of Education, Guyana

Thursday, 04 April 2013 00:00

Manickchand pleads for partnership; labour minister threatened with no confidence motion

The ever-earnest Minister of Education Priya Manickhand has called on the parliamentary opposition to work with the government to overcome the challenges facing Guyana as debate on the national budget continues.
“In recognising these challenges and in trying to overcome them together it requires us to do more than wax lyrical in this House, we would have to put our shoulders to the wheel,” she told the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Pointing to the education sector Manickhchand said that with 1,000 schools, 10,000 teachers and 300,000 students it was too big to not have problems. What was needed, she added, was the opposition and government pulling in the same direction.

“Don’t come postulating about sharpening your different instruments, that is not helpful to our nation, that is not helpful to the people who look up to us here to lead and to give them what they are deserving of, we can only help our people if we constructively put our minds together.If we were to combine our efforts, government and opposition, we could get more for the people than any one side by itself and so we call on the opposition on going forward, there is time and there is space for this destructive behaviour that has gone hither fore to change,” the minister said.

The combined opposition parties last year utilised their one seat majority in the House to controversially cut some GUY$20.9B from the proposed GUY$192.8B estimates and have indicated that they were prepared to make more cuts this year.

The government had challenged the budget cuts in court and acting Chief Justice Ian Chang handed down a preliminary ruling that the cuts were illegal and that the parties could only approve or disapprove the budget in its entirety and not amend it. But the parties have questioned that stance saying that it was inconceivable that they would be reduced to spectators in the Assembly.

Opening Wednesday’s debate APNU’s Basil Williams, who has shadow responsibility for legal affairs and labour, said it appeared the government preferred “brick and mortar over flesh and blood.”

“It is apparent that the government believes that delivery of justice lies in more infrastructure. Billions have been spent on constructing new courts and refurbishing existing ones. Another two billion is allocated to continue the splurge, nevermind that the Leonora Magistrate’s Court and for years now the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court are not yet operable,” he said.

Williams called for modernised court rooms saying this would speed up trials while the development of standard forms at the Deeds Registry would mean speedier transactions. His calls also covered the full constitution of the Judicial Services Commission and the implementation of a fast-tracking mechanism to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

On the labour front, Williams raised the controversial Marriott Hotel construction project being undertaken by a Chinese firm. The two political sides have wrangled on the issue of Guyanese employment on the project.
“Unlike the PNC in government, the PPP/C does not guarantee employment of Guyanese in big international projects within Guyana, thus Chinese workers are preferred over Guyanese workers in the Marriott case. The APNU recommends to this government that in all such contracts they must include what we called in our day, a Guyanisation [sic] clause,” Williams declared.
He added that in addition to guaranteeing Guyanese employment such a clause would ensure that the projects would be taken over in due time by Guyanese.

The APNU official also took the government to task for what he said was its failure to ensure bauxite company RUSAL complied with the laws of Guyana particularly on occupational safety and health. He called on labour minister Dr. Nanda Gopaul to fulfill his responsibilities to the RUSAL workers in the same way he did with other sectors.
“We are calling on this minister to use his powers and intervene in the same manner in which he intervened in the GPL/NAACIE dispute or face another no confidence motion and this time we assure you we would win this no confidence motion,” Williams stated.
The budget debates continue on Thursday from 1PM.


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