The Deeds and Commercial Registries Authorities (Amendment) Bill of 2017 passed.

DPI/GINA, GUYANA, Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Bill was passed after a spirited debate in the National Assembly between the government and the opposition side of the House over the power that would reside in Attorney General when the Governing Board expires. There was also a late move by the Opposition side of the House to have the Bill amended that was shot down by the Speaker of the House Barton Scotland.

The Bill, provides for an expansion from eight to eleven of the membership of the Governing Board of the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority.

Hon. Basil Williams, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams SC, in moving the second reading of the Bill, sought to highlight how by expanding the membership, this would widen the expertise and experience and enrich the deliberations of the Board. The minister also noted that it would also increase the Board’s efficiency in carrying out its functions.

Another feature of the Bill is that it provides for, where the Board has not been appointed or is not functioning that the Minister performs its function until it comes into being. The Minister explained that this function would be transitory.

The Opposition speakers, who later followed the Minister, rejected the legislation on the grounds that it invested absolute power, without checks and balances to the minister over the function of the Governing Board.

Opposition Member Adrian Anamayah opposing the Bill, said that it was not about altering any powers of the subject minister but rather consolidating it. He added that the Deeds Registry, created nearly 100 years ago, was subject to a revised Act in 2013 designed to ensure efficient performance and ease of doing business. The 2013 Act, he reminded was passed unanimously, and then Opposition Member Ramjattan noted that it “could be managed without any politicos”.

He said that at the time there was no desire for political control over the Registry. The new amendment, being brought before the House, he added is a clear case of “control freakism.”

Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan, spoke following Ananmayah. He dismissed the claims that the Bill bestowed too much power on the minister. He noted, instead that the new measures, “go a far way towards making the Board more inclusive.” He argued that there will now be nominees from the Berbice and Georgetown Bar Associations, the Ministry of Finance’s Valuation Committee and the Ministry of Business.  “Because of the nature of the country’s progress into more commercial transactions, we will need a governing body that is more expansive,” Minister Ramjattan pointed out.

He was followed by Opposition MP Anil Nandlall. He noted that there was no problem with the broadening of the Board, but questioned the “preponderance of power” ascribed to the subject minister. He said that the move to take control of certain boards has manifested its self, several times with the government. He added that the attempt to have a minister “run things when a board expires, can’t be a good thing.”

Delivering closing arguments, Attorney General Basil Williams SC, said what the Opposition was trying to do, was misrepresent the legislation’s intent. He maintained that his power on the Board will be transitory. Minister Williams also stressed his government’s belief that the Executive should not intervene in the powers of the J1udiciary. The enlargement of the Board to enhance its effectiveness is something, he added, that no one has a problem with.

He then recommended the passage of the Bill. This was delayed after Nandlall, supported by Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira rose to ask for an amendment to be made to the legislation. This was however dismissed by the Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland who reminded that there a time limit of 10:00 hours on the same day for any additional amendment to be made to a legislation. Despite further impassioned pleas by MP Teixeira, the Speaker said while there was indeed precedent, it would not be allowed since the time had long passed.

The Bill was then examined clause by clause and later passed by the majority onthe government side of the House.

 

By: Paul McAdam

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