[www.inewsguyana.com] – Prime Minister Samuel Hinds moved a motion to have the Customs Amendment Bill, No 11 of 2014 read in the National Assembly yesterday [Thursday, July 10] against the backdrop of a ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
However, the Opposition using their one-seat majority voted against the motion saying that the Bill should not engage the attention of the National Assembly at this time. Prime Minister Hinds said the Bill seeks to address an issue that is quite commonly known with respect to an apparent difference in treatment of containers used by persons importing into Guyana and containers used by producers in Guyana.
“It would be known that recently, the matter was heard by the CCJ and certain rulings were given there, and the government is seeking to put itself right with the ruling of the CCJ and so we are seeking to re-introduce that Bill.”
Surinamese-based company, Rudisa was awarded US$6M judgment by the CCJ against the Guyana Government. The company alleged that the environmental tax of $10 on all imported non-returnable beverage containers imported into Guyana was unfair and was a violation of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
In re-introducing the Bill which was first brought to the House in 2013, the Prime Minister sought to have standing orders Number 69 and 26 E which stand in the way of reintroducing the bill be suspended to allow the National Assembly to proceed with the second and third readings of the Customs Amendment Bill number 11 of 2014.
APNU Member Carl Greenidge said the Bill is one which ought not to engage the National Assembly’s attention at this time for the simple reason that Government has not stood up to an undertaking they had promised.
Meanwhile, AFC Member Khemraj Ramjattan in opposing the Bill’s reading said all parties had lengthy discussions on the Bill. He however noted that his Party will not support the Bill as it seeks to impose more tax on importers and manufacturers.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall said both opposition parties in their presentations forgot to mention the judgment by the CCJ against the state of Guyana.
“CCJ in ruling noted that government had attempted to resolve the issue by proposing legislation in the form of the Customs Amendment bill, this enactment was however rejected by the National Assembly.”
Further, the Attorney General said as a result, it is the people of Guyana who will have to pay, as Guyana will have to report to the CCJ on compliance. In 1995 when the law was introduced, it was not discriminatory, but this situation changed when CARICOM revised the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman after a vote was taken, 32 from the combined opposition and 28 in favour, decided that the bill will remain on the order paper.
“The Bill is not dead, it has not been allowed to the second and third stage at this point in time”. He however noted that he would need to be advised on the way forward.
[Extracted and modified from GINA]