Leader of the Opposition [Mr. Granger]: Mr. Speaker, colleagues, it is my fate to follow a former Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Police Service Commission. I think the Hon. Member omitted to mention that he is also a former member of the Board of the Guyana Defence Commission.
I think there is abundant evidence of cohabitation coming out of the fact that on several occasions Members of the Cabinet sitting on the eastern side of the House have ended up as chairpersons of so-called independent and autonomous commissions. Similarly, people who have been members of the commissions have ended up as Ministers of the House. So when we are looking for evidence of cohabitation, right here in this House I think there is abundant empirical evidence.
Over the past years also we have had situations in which senior public servants, permanent secretaries even, would resign from the service in October, campaign in November and be reappointed in December. Effective government can only be achieved by an efficient public service, an efficient police service, an efficient teaching service and an efficient judiciary. These cannot be achieved by bypassing these services. But the greatest damage has been done over the last twenty years through attempts to circumvent the public services and their practices which have been enshrined in our Constitution. I can refer to no better source or authority than Dr. Bertram Collins who was on the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service of Guyana. He is the brother of Mr. Rudy Collins as you know. Dr. Collins’ report, published since 1969, states:
“Political leaders since 1961…”
And you may recall, Mr. Speaker, it was in 1961 that Guyana earned its internal self-governing Constitution. It is in 1961 that the People’s Progressive Party formed the administration of this country.
Dr. Collins writes:
“Political leaders since 1961 seem to have taken more than the normal interest in the careers and opportunities of individual public servants. Public servants have often shown themselves not to be politically impartial. The worst consequences, however, of this political uncertainty has been a distrust in many minds about the application of the merit system. Many individual public servants no longer feel that their careers depend on merit alone, but fear they can be victims, or hope they will be beneficiaries of political favour. This strikes at the heart of the ideal of an efficient public service serving loyally the government of the day and all of the people of the country.”
These four service commissions are watchdogs of responsibility. They are responsible for safeguarding the integrity, the impartiality and the independence of the four services. But we have seen - and this is why we must go beyond the mere financial and administrative provisions - we have seen particularly over the last 13 years, since the end of that 8-week public service strike, the proliferation of contract employees; persons employed without advertising, without scrutiny, and without, perhaps, needing to obey the code of the public service. We have seen political advisers in disguise, permanent secretaries moving from political platforms to boardrooms; we have seen cronyism, people who are exempt from the tight qualifications imposed in the recruitment process in the conventional public service.
The three core values for the service from all four agencies - the police, the public service, the judiciary and the teaching service - are impartiality, that is fairness to the discharge of their functions to the entire public; integrity, that is honesty in his or her work; and independence, that is freedom from executive control, freedom from fear and, of course, freedom to enjoy financial autonomy which this motion seeks to ensure. The core values mean that public servants must be able to retain the respect of the public while they enjoy the trust of their Ministers.
The PPP’s record particularly over the last 13 years has been that there has been no pretence at impartiality. We have, as I said earlier, situations where former Ministers from the eastern side of this House have become chairpersons… (Government Member: Five years after.) Less than five years; and you check Mr. George Fung-On …have become chairpersons of so-called impartial and independent commissions. We have seen the growth of cronyism particularly in the army of advisers that have sprung up in certain ministries, and particularly in the Office of the President. We have seen the growth of contract employees, a device to undermine the Guyana Public Service Union which ended up undermining the integrity of the public service itself. Damage comes when judges, when teachers when police officers, when public servants, are no longer professionals, and when they become subject to the dictates of the Executive. We see damage when commissions can no longer convince the public servants that they can advance by their qualifications and their performance, but need to be politically subservient to the administration.
We see in Guyana a situation in which there is a web of unelected commissions. We see that the main arms of the state can actually be run not by the legislative body such as this noble House, not even by the Executive, but by a string of unelected commissions; commissions which are not responsible directly to this House, which cannot be controlled by the National Assembly, and which the public cannot scrutinise. Those commissions, if they have no autonomy, make nonsense of democracy. Unless they are given financial freedom by this House they will remain beholden to the Executive and the Executive alone.
Effective governance demands that these institutions, these commissions, be given the administrative freedom, and the financial freedom which this motion seeks to entrench. The four services are essential to good government. The four service commissions are essential to the independent functioning of those services. This motion is essential to safeguarding the independence, the integrity, and impartiality of those commissions. That is what this debate is all about. The cornerstone of our Constitution is the impartiality of our public services, the judicial service, the teaching service, the public service and the police service. What is the alternative? The alternative is rule by political appointees. The alternative is services based on loyalty to the political administration, services derived from ethnicity perhaps, or family connections, but not on the industry, not on the education, not on the qualifications. If it is the latter we want in this country I ask that we support this motion. If it is that we want independent commissions which can function impartially, and which can preserve the integrity of our public servants, I ask this Hon. House to support the motion advanced by my colleague Mr. Carl Greenidge.
Thank you. [Applause]