Mr. Ramjattan: Thank you very much Mdm. Deputy Speaker. I want to preamble the few remarks that I have with the comment that was made by the last speaker that someone was going to comment about it, that it is late in coming. In or around 2001 the then President of the Bar and a team of very important Lawyers, I was included – I was not that very important – met the President in connection with the rehabilitation, especially of the Deeds Registry and of course the patent and designed Sub-Registry and so many other aspects of the Registries along with a whole host of other matters. We were told, yes indeed we are going to have changes and that is admitted by the Hon. Attorney General. The changed did not see themselves coming quick enough.
In 2007, I also made a speech here in the budget debate of there being a nexus between the law and growth. Where we have a legal architecture, one that is solid, appreciates what businessmen want, appreciates that there is need for doing business in an efficient expeditious manner, we are going to get greater amounts of investors in the country. We were told “good speech Mr. Ramjattan, but that is going to happen”. 2011, 2008, 2009, it was so much of a long time. Indeed we have had it happening now. That is a critique I wish to make, because it does not only apply to a sector that is commercial and has to do with property relations, but in almost every other thing. I do not want to say that I am being prophetic here, but in another score I will have to mention the fact that today we see our Home Affairs Minister who has been gagged talking about civilian oversight of the Police Force. In 1994 there was a Guyanese against crime association that was formed especially for purposes of being a civilian oversight over Mr. Laurie Lewis, Administration of the Force and Mr. Feroze Mohamed’s “ministerialship”. The thing was literally stamped out of existence. Twenty years after they went to England and gotten some experts who are telling them what Ramjattan told them twenty years ago.
If I may mention this, because of what I had written then, I got disciplined for the very first time in 1994 after that writing. I am happy that we are coming around to understanding that we have to have transformative, structural changes to these institutions so that we can take charge of a better management of these sectors so that our business and security can be far more advanced as against what we have presently.
It is important to understand that in the context then, of this Bill, my critique first of all is that it has taken so long to come. Now that it has come, and we are trying our best to take away the politicised control over those governing bodies that we want, I want to say that it still seeps and emerges; it is sieving through still. That is why when we are now going to create this governing board we have its members who are going to be nominees of the politicos.
One would have expected that notwithstanding the Minister of Housing having to do with mortgages and house lots which means land and transport, inputs in relations to how the Deeds Registry being managed can be done without an input from that politico. The same thing we have seen wrong with almost all where the control comes back to the Minister. It is going to be a test of 2013. I do not want to beat back the love fest because we have been carrying on pretty well tonight. Understand that what we are speaking about here is that you have the need to degut from the politicisation of the institution as it being a positive thing.
When we talk about Section 5 we are saying the governing board shall consist of the following members, the Chairman appointed by the Legal Affairs Minister – I could have appreciated that – but then we have the Registrar of Deeds who Judicial Service Commission appoints, but we have a nominee from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Housing. Why could they not have simply taken themselves out? I am saying that you could have put in members of the Judicial Service Commission.
I would like to say that those very three important positions, the Chairman appointed by the Minister of Legal Affairs, a person nominated by the Ministry of Finance and another person nominated by the Ministry of Housing and Water, in a sense dilutes what we were trying to get at, which was depoliticise this governing authority. I am saying, in view of all that they have been saying about what we should be doing, being magnanimous and all of that and 2013 being a year that we are going to change and going to engage, let us see how this test is going to be put so that indeed those who they are going to select do not constitute favourites and that nepotism is going to the order of the day. Let us put it to the test. We are going to see what happens there.
In addition, now that you are going to have the board which is supposed to govern this institution as Section 16 says, “Where the Minister after consultation with the governing board shall appoint the Registrar, the Deputy Registrar and two assistant Registrars of the Commercial Registry.”
I was saying to the Minister that if you are now trying to tell the whole country that we would like to put the appointments on the governing authority why is it “the Minister after consultation with”. If you want to give that governing authority more authority, why not let it be “with agreement”? If when he consults, and the governing authority, assuming it becomes a very strong independent body as they are saying they will make it, gives some names, let us say they want a certain Mr. “X” or Ms. “Y” for the Registrar position the Minister could say in consultation that he/she would like to have someone else. So, the governing board then becomes de minimis by section 68. So, I am hoping that when it is that the consultation process would have been done, that the Minister is going respect the governing board.
There are two weaknesses. Firstly, you have the capacity of the governing board being political and having favourites. Even if it does not in the appointment of registrars and sub-registrars, the consultation process is not strong enough to ensure that the board has its way. Those are two of the main criticisms I have apart from the one that we indeed need civilian oversight of these institutions and that we need better structures. We need also an understanding. Not because we have a new Bill and we have the governing board and all these things and that we are going to subdivide and do physical divisions and compartmentalisation necessarily means that things could change. It could very well be that without the relevant training... [Mr. Nandlall: Like another broadcasting authority.] Yes, like another broadcasting authority.
While I am pleading with you, do not make me think that I am going to be pessimistic about it all. I am hoping, Hon. Minister, now that you have the authority – I think earlier the authority lied with the Chancellor – but it is now with the Ministry of Legal Affairs that we can have a transformation to the extent whereby we are going to have efficiency and efficacy. It will require training of those individuals. One knows, just as Mr. Basil Williams knows and all the lawyers know that in our Registry there it is a literal hell to get transports passed and of the things one has to do. I am little cowardly at this stage, I would not state all. I will just say that it is not very nice what lawyers sometimes have to do. That is why, quite frankly, I do not have a practice in that area.
It is important to understand that we have to go this way. We are making the right moves in the right direction, but I do not think that all has occurred. I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to the Ministry of Legal Affairs. [Interruption] Yes, but I said, I will treat with caution. I have always indicated that a combination of Mr. Anil Nandlall and Dr. Ashni Singh is dangerous, but we have a combination of Mr. Anil Nandlall, Dr Ashni Singh and now Mr. Irfaan Ali in that governing board. I am hoping that 2013 brings lots of better tidings. To that extent then, with some hesitation, the Alliance for Change is going to support this Bill. Thank you very much. [Applause]