It’s time for the people to take back their government

Dear Editor,
I wish to respond to your news article, ‘PNCR infighting ruined political cooperation – Jagdeo,’ (January 8), in which the President reportedly said on Wednesday, that an initiative to improve cooperation between the political parties unravelled because of infighting within the main opposition party. Now, isn’t there a problem with his assertion and the timeline regarding when the initiative was being taken to improve cooperation and when the infighting in the PNC took place?

First, whatever initiative to improve cooperation between political parties (mainly the PPP and PNC) could be traced back to the inter-party dialogue started between the late Cheddi Jagan and Desmond Hoyte in the aftermath of the PNC-inspired post-92 street protests. After Jagan died in 1997, Hoyte basically put the talks on ice until after Mr Bharrat Jagdeo became President in 1999. After Mr Robert Corbin took leadership of the PNC on Hoyte’s death, he also met with President Jagdeo in what we all thought were the ongoing inter-party meetings.
Up until the 2006 elections, I don’t recall infighting in the PNC that would have impacted the dialogue sessions between Messrs Jagdeo and Corbin, but what is true is that the nation never knew what exactly these talks were centred on, because they seem to be largely between the President and the Opposition Leader instead of a team of party representatives, who should then inform the public on the details of the talks.

Then after the 2006 elections, there might have been a couple of meetings between the President and the main Opposition Leader with no details being released to the nation, which prompted me to write letters asking how there could be inter-party talks without participation from the newest parliamentary party, the Alliance For Change, and whether the talks between those two men were really secret plans in the works for shared governance, especially since the PNC, under Mr Corbin, had adopted a docile stance in the face of a string of autocratic moves by President Jagdeo.

As far as I can recall, and I can be corrected by anyone in-the-know, is that the only PNC infighting of significance took place in the run-up to the party’s last congress when Team Alexander sought to unseat Team Corbin, and this would be long after the last publicized Jagdeo-Corbin talks. So the President or his spokesperson needs to provide a timeline of inter-party (or more like Jagdeo-Corbin) talks and the incident of PNC infighting that ruined their so-called ‘political cooperation.’ I stopped believing everything the local political leaders say without providing us with evidence and reason because I recognized that they are working in their own partisan rather than the people’s interest.

Second, as a Guyanese who has tried to keep up with political developments in Guyana, I can tell you that there is no real political cooperation between the PPP government and any of the parliamentary parties on issues germane to the people. The regime would be downright disingenuous if it insists there is cooperation, and needs to be called out on this so the people can make more informed decisions about which party to trust and support in the future. The PPP regime is basically taking advantage of the PNC’s docility to become increasingly autocratic and implement its own selfish agenda.

Third, I don’t support the President’s theory that calls for Mr Corbin’s resignation as PNC Leader have anything to do with the desire by Mr Corbin’s critics for a return to street protests that would turn violent and destructive. Throughout the world, street protests are the biggest weapon available to people when they have tried and failed to get the authorities to correct real or perceived wrongs in society. Some protests have been violent and destructive, but many have been straight-up peaceful and orderly and yielded their desired results. We can have peaceful and orderly protests in Guyana!

The President reportedly said, “[But] they want confrontation, because all the critics have to say is you must fight the government,” and wondered why the critics are not saying, “…why don’t you find a way working together.” Well duh! Being confrontational is part of the nature of any political opposition, but being confrontational does not mean being violent and destructive, especially if the confrontation is executed in an effective and orderly manner.

And on the President’s point of the opposition and government finding a way to work together, which is so true, one still has to ask the President what the working relationship is between the government and the other parliamentary opposition party, the AFC, since 2006? And please, Sir, don’t give a one-word, bland answer; be specific and cite specific examples of the PPP regime working together with the opposition AFC.

It is just unfortunate that the PNC-inspired protests did turn ugly in the past, but this does not mean that the PNC should not be out there leading streets protests against this uncaring, insensitive, vindictive and visionless PPP regime. And this is why many have been calling for a change in leadership so the PNC can stop being docile. The PNC is impotent in a PPP-controlled Parliament and it is ineffective among the frustrated and angry masses. While the PNC is leaning towards shared governance by being docile, the PPP regime is leaning towards autocracy by being hostile.

Fourth, I do agree with the President, however, that any shared governance arrangement would require a great degree of trust by the parties involved, but I also believe that just as there is no trust between the PPP and PNC, there is no trust even within the PPP and PNC.

The two are so much alike, it is laughable that they allow their shared differences to make them not trust each other. Nevertheless, I would concede that in order for shared governance to work that the people have to want it and that the system be open to civil society players with no strong-arming tactics by the major political parties. However, since the PPP and PNC are inherently dictatorial in thinking and operation, I don’t see how this concept will work. Regardless, it’s time for the people to take back their government anyway.

And so what Guyana really needs at this time are genuine reforms that give greater power to the people and lesser power to the political parties. For instance, the people need to take control of Parliament – the highest decision-making forum in the country – by directly picking their parliamentary representatives and being able to recall them. No more party lists and no more right of parties to recall MPs. Local governments/municipalities need to be detached from the central government and allowed to function as autonomous bodies, answerable to the people who elect their local leaders. There is so much more to address, but this would suffice for now!
Yours faithfully,
Emile Mervin

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