How can three political parties come together in the national interest given that each has its own agenda?

Dear Editor,

People are well aware that the November 28, 2011 general and regional elections created a minority government, with the opposition controlling parliament by a mere one seat. This is what is referred to as the new political dispensation, where, in theory, the three political parties have to come together in the interest of national unity. This is not happening at this time and any future coming together looks grim.

This ‘grim’ characteristic already has hit the stage largely because one or two of the key players has a greater interest in advancing one-upmanship, and not genuine national unity amid a pervading and growing political mistrust. That distrust saw the light of day in the elections of Speaker and Deputy Speaker from the opposition forces, and most recently, the opposition parliament’s non-approval of Financial Papers # 7 and # 8. Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh in expressing his concerns on the non-approval noted: “What we witnessed today was the coming together of the APNU and the AFC to withhold parliamentary imprimatur being granted to expenditure that was incurred from the contingencies fund in accordance with the law… this expenditure was incurred in the interest of providing goods and services to the people of Guyana.” This statement certainly is not an expression of trust.

And then there is the unending psychological war between A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) for control of the opposition, with regular and amusing manifestations in the media. Sometimes, I wonder who the opposition leader is. It is clear that the one-seat majority opposition’s adrenalin is flowing ubiquitously, indeed, imbuing in the opposition elements the feeling that they have all the answers for all the problems in this country.

This approach does not bode well for coming together, for substituted for this thing called genuine ‘national unity,’  is national unity rhetoric, a regular and demeaning political expression by all standards in the annals of this country’s politics. At any rate, if the signs of the times are the soaring opposition theatrical ‘one-upmanship’ style, the opposition’s psychological warfare, and the ensuing and enduring political mistrust among all parties, then new general and regional elections may provide the exit route from this political mayhem. Or, the alternative is for all the parties to nurture a nonpartisan modus operandi within this new political dispensation.

Cabinet members have some affinity with the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), and therefore, it is logical that they would promote that party’s agenda; likewise, AFC and APNU opposition members of parliament logically represent and promote their parties’ interests. How then do they come together? All three political parties will argue that their parties’ interests are not partisan because their agendas put Guyana first. So if each party’s interest is in the national interest, what are the conditions that make for such wholesale disagreement to the point of acrimony?

Look, whether the PPP/C is right or wrong, it has a perception about the Speakership elections and about the parliamentary non-approval of the Financial Papers; and as long as these perceptions are not on a path of convergence with the two opposition parties, then coming together is heading for failure, and mistrust reigns.

Invariably, after an election producing no clear winner in many other countries, parliamentary negotiations among several parties will eventually produce some coalition or minority government, which becomes a minority caretaker; where the minority caretaker government becomes vulnerable to parliamentary diktat. This would be the case, principally, because the minority government in some other country is a creature of parliament.

What is different in the Guyana situation is that its Parliament had no input in the birth of this minority PPP/C government; the constitution stipulates that the party with the majority of votes at an election accedes to the presidency, and the president constitutes a government. For these reasons, in Guyana, there is no parliamentary or legislative struggle to institute a government. I suspect, then, under these circumstances, the PPP/C government is not a minority caretaker in Powell’s terms, the government is hardly a caretaker if it does have an escape route on legislation it does not prefer.
And I present these ideas because any coming together would first require an understanding of the conception and the constitutional, and not parliamentary basis, of this new political dispensation.

The question is still the same, nonetheless, that is, how could the three political parties come together in the national interest, given that each has its own agenda? Applying a revised version of Spear’s findings, reaching a path of convergence requires resolving several challenges. I mention a few here, among others, as diluting the one-upmanship thinking and action; tempering the opposition psychological war to weaken political competitors; cease and desist from using the zero-sum power game; any agreed package has to be primarily in the national interest; actionalize the view that what benefits the national interest benefits the parties.

The Spanish writer Ortega Y Gasset who authored Invertebrate Spain, wrote about people ‘coming together,’ thus “People don’t live together just like that. That kind of cohesion exists only within a family. The groups who make up a state live together for a purpose. They are a community of projects, desires, big undertakings. They don’t come together simply to be together, but in order to do something tomorrow.” And the nauseating national unity rhetoric now the hallmark of the new political dispensation will not effect a coming together; coming together has a purpose, where all the parties’ agendas become the national agenda.
Yours faithfully,
Prem Misir

More in Letters

default placeholder

GRA employees are not public servants

Dear Editor, According to the media there appears to be a misconstruction of roles, respectively of the Chairman and Board of the Guyana Revenue Authority, and that of the President, GPSU; probably because in one instance the authors are uninformed of the Revenue Authority Act 13 of 1996, amended by 16 of 2003, Clause 2 (1) which reads as follows: “Functions of Governing Board (16 of 2003) “(1) The Governing Board shall be responsible for – “a)   subject to subsection (2) the approval and review of the policy of the Authority; “b)   the monitoring of the performance of the Authority in carrying out functions; and “(c)  the discipline and control of all members of staff of the Authority appointed under this Act.” In an apparent rush to personalise a difference of positions between the two parties much ado has been made of the quoted expressions of the Chairman, as distinct from the statutory authority of that office and the Board.

default placeholder

Fishermen from Guyana and Suriname are the ones most affected by piracy

Dear Editor, I write on behalf of the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisation, the Guyana National Fisherfolk Organisation and the Suriname Fisherfolk Organisation ‒ Visserscollectief.

default placeholder

SOCU and SARU wield a political hatchet but masquerade as law enforcement agencies

Dear Editor, Just last week, I examined the causal connection between taxation and fear and economic decline in the context of the Guyanese economy.

default placeholder

To hang or not to hang

Dear Editor, To hang or not to hang has been a topic in Guyana, the Caribbean and much of the free world for several decades.

default placeholder

Working at grass-roots level more effective than Candlelight Vigils

Dear Editor, I wish to express my appreciation for the complimentary remarks and invitation extended by Mr Annan Boodram of Caribbean Voice in his letter of 21st July in the Stabroek News, in the context of the ‘debate’ on rum and alcoholism, etc (‘Letter on alcoholism referred to all alcoholic drinks, not just rum’).

default placeholder

Thoughts on the second day of the Test

Dear Editor, Lunch-time second day of the first Test India v West Indies: I watched half of the morning session on TV and listened carefully to the comments of Bishop and Dujon about the handling of the bowlers.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: