Political analyst Henry Jeffrey has berated opposition coalition APNU for what he described as its predilection for “fictitious political posturing”.
In his column in Tuesday’s Stabroek News, Jeffrey cited a motion in Parliament for the clean-up of the city and the more recent call by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) for a social contract among all stakeholders.
Jeffrey, who had a long association with the PNC, the principal component of APNU, said there can be no doubt that public confidence in the opposition in general has sunk since the 2011 national elections. Although the drop in support was inevitable, he argued that much of it has resulted from APNU’s refusal to take concrete steps in a bid to win tangible benefits.
By providing the opposition with a majority, he posited that the 2011 general elections result has placed it in the unenviable position of having raised unrealistic expectations that it now appears unable to fulfill.
“Indeed, pressed to indicate what it has achieved over the last two years, the opposition’s only real claim is that it has contributed to more accountable government. This is true, and not a small matter, but appears to fall far short of the sea-change some opposition supporters expected”, Jeffrey contended.
Further, he said that the shenanigans of many in the opposition parties’ leadership, including issues of conflict of interest and questionable parliamentary voting practices, have seriously devalued its moral standing. He argued that this was so much so that significantly fewer people today believe that should the opposition come to government in the present constitutional arrangements that the nature of governance will be positively boosted
On top of this, he slammed APNU for “profound political naivety or cynicism” seen in its policy suggestions.
He adverted to last March’s motion in the name of APNU MP Volda Lawrence to clean up Georgetown which was passed with all-party support in the National Assembly.
“At the time I was so alarmed at this seeming naivety that I wrote but did not publish some concerns. Of course, Georgetown has not been cleaned up and if anything, the situation appears to have become worse since the motion was passed. Not surprisingly, there has been much enquiry as to the status of the motion”, said Jeffrey who also served as the PPP/C Minister of Labour, Health, Education and Foreign Trade between 1992 and 2008.
Jeffrey argued that it could not have missed APNU that over the years the PPP/C has shown little interest in providing the resources to have Georgetown clean and properly working.
“The idea is to use its squalid condition to visibly demonstrate that the PNC/APNU cannot provide the necessary services and thus cause it to lose support and ultimately control of the city’s administration”, Jeffrey asserted.
As such, he said that the question had to be asked as to what motivated the proposers to bring the motion.
“What good reason did they have to presume that should it pass the PPP/C would change its errant ways? The result has shown that whatever were the assumptions of the proposers, they were wrong. Indeed, given the historical context, the most generous conclusion must be that the proposers exhibited an unexpected and unacceptable level of naivety.
“Quite apart from the above stated objectives of the PPP/C, if that party did not clean up the city on its own, what possible incentive would it have to do so following an opposition motion? Of course, it must publicly support such a motion, but why should it give political credit to the opposition for something it has the capacity to do if it wishes?” Jeffrey questioned.
Another possibility, he said, was that the motion was “cynically propagandistic” and was intended to show that APNU was active in the interest of its supporters even if no results were produced.
He said he was reminded of the clean-up motion when news broke on Saturday that APNU is now calling on the regime to join with it and others to form a social contract.
“One does not have to be a genius to realise that the establishment of a workable process for the formation of a social contract in our political context is all but impossible!
“The central element of any such contract is total financial and other openness, and the entire opposition has for years been telling us that getting information from the regime is worse than pulling teeth. The regime has even passed a freedom of information law that appears designed to prevent rather than facilitate the release of information”, Jeffrey charged.
He therefore questioned why APNU is asking for the setting up of even more committees when the government is already “blocking outcomes from the ones that are already established”. He cited the committees set up in Linden in the aftermath of the 2012 power protests and which Stabroek News reported on Monday has not produced any tangible result in 16 months.
“The answer is the same as posited above, namely propaganda, to give the impression that the party is reasonable and making efforts, although it knows full well there will be no concrete results”, Jeffrey said.
He asserted that the PPP/C had dumped the idea of a social contract in the late 1990s, when it decided that political/ethnic dominance was the only method of managing a divided society such as this.
Pointing out that the opposition has essentially negative parliamentary power, i.e. the capacity to prevent government action, Jeffrey said it should not exacerbate this by resorting to political posturing that could deepen the frustration of its supporters.
APNU, he posited, can have a full positive agenda of important issues that affect the daily lives of its supporters and others, e.g. the poor roads and other conditions in Sophia; the delay in the implementation of the agreements made after the Linden unrest; unacceptable public service wages and most importantly, the need for constitutional change.