Date: September 27th, 2019
Consultation is a pillar of Democratic Nations. On 13th August 2019, in his address at the ceremony for the ‘Inter-Agency Memorandum of Understanding for Collaboration in Regulating Fishing and Fishing Related Activities and Relevant Trade’, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Clarence Rambharat referring to the Draft Fisheries Management Bill, is quoted as stating that “he expected to lay the proposed
legislation before the Lower House next month”. Seven (7) weeks have passed and the Minister remains silent.
Fishing associations and stakeholders have a right to be consulted, particularly when it will affect their lives, income and operations and yet we were never consulted on this latest draft version.
In 2009/2010, FFOS along with its Attorneys conducted nation-wide consultations with fishing associations, at which 82 comments and recommendations were submitted to the Fisheries Division. No feedback has ever been provided as to the status of our written submissions and whether they were incorporated and if not, why not?
In 2011, 2014 and 2015, the Draft Fisheries Management Bill was brought to Parliament without even publicly publishing the final draft of the Bill, effectively locking us all out. Is this inclusive governance?
On 12th June 2018, the Fisheries Division held an ‘exclusionary’, ‘invitation-only’ ‘public consultation’ to discuss this Bill. Which now contains even more draconian measures, with penalties increased by over 70,000 per cent and listed in USD! Imagine the penalty for not having a fisherman license in your pocket, whilst at sea, is $150,000.00 USD.
The vast majority of artisanal stakeholders who form the bulk of the Fishery and control the majority of landing sites, were never even invited and copies of the draft were not provided in advance. Only one copy per table was provided at this “sham consultation”.
Are our voiceless, underprivileged being bullied?
We insist that proper, meaningful, open consultation must be conducted with those who are most affected. Stakeholder endorsement is necessary to empower the Law and for the intended regulations to be upheld yet has been bypassed with those who are most affected, being hoodwinked and left in the dark. This parliamentary brutalization is unbecoming of the 21st century. If the Government circumvents a participatory and inclusive legislative process, they would be further banishing this Bill and extending our nations world record for the most ancient Fisheries Act (1916).
FFOS appeal to our Prime Minister to ensure that they are meaningful public consultations and to act with a sense of benevolence and wisdom. Anything less will be considered a dictator’s brutality.