An opportunity to start over

first_imgFor a Government with a one-seat majority, the PNC-led coalition behaved after 2015 as if they had the two-thirds majority Forbes Burnham rigged for the PNC in 1973. Yet they had gone into a coalition with the AFC, which had earned five seats in the National Assembly in 2006 on the promise they would provide a countervailing force to both the PPP and PNC. Most of their supporters assumed they would maintain some semblance of independence to keep the PNC on the straight and narrow, since the withdrawal of their support on any spending bill could bring the Government down.But it was not to be, even though they had a signed agreement, dubbed the “Cummingsburg Accord”, to guarantee their autonomy of action. Their behaviour between 2011 and 2015, however, when they consistently supported the PNC/APNU positions against the PPP minority government, signalled their opportunism to the PNC. The latter’s first move after they acceded to office was to sweeten the pot on salaries and perks of the AFC leaders, so that when they, the PNC, reneged on all the promises of the Accord, the AFC not only stayed mum, but actively connived with them to introduce several authoritarian measures.  President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of the octogenarian Justice James Patterson to the Chair of GECOM, which vitiated the painstakingly-crafted Constitutional provision for the meaningful input of the Opposition Leader, was a case in point. AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan gleefully allowed that he had actually suggested the feint to Granger.In his peroration as to why the PNC-led Coalition Government should not be allowed to finish its five-year term, Bharat Jagdeo, Leader of the Opposition, offered a masterful summation. Fundamentally, the clinching argument was based on the question of what the Government had to show after spending $1.3 trillion, apart for them enjoying the “good life” with their super salaries and their perks. Jagdeo also honed in on the chasm between their manifesto promises and the sordid reality of non-accomplishment.The “yes” vote by AFC MP Charandass Persaud stunned the Government, because they had come to believe that everyone on their benches would stifle their consciences. It was the quintessence of democratic representative Government when Persaud explained that, unlike his party leaders, he was not an automaton to be remote controlled by the PNC. As the British High Commissioner Greg Quinn said, “The democratic process as laid out in the Constitution has been followed.  It is important that everyone now respects the results.  Members of Parliament must be allowed to undertake their constitutionally mandated roles in the absence of fear or favour.”The Constitution, specifically Art 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution, states respectively: “The Cabinet, including the President, shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” And “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall, by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly, determine…”After the vote, the Opposition Leader acknowledged that both sides have constituencies, and as such, he said, “We have to find a way now to ensure that we maximise all of the national skills and look past the politics of it, so that we can, in the upcoming era, which can be transformative, we can present a united face to the rest of the world. And this, although it may seem an unprecedented and maybe disappointing for the members of the Government side, it’s also an opportunity – and I would hope we all see it as an opportunity – for engagement very, very early on both sides, and decide on how we [move forward].”This newspaper supports the call for a free and fair election and a campaign fought on the issues that confront Guyana and its future development.last_img read more