Chairman of opposition coalition A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) David Granger believes that the cabinet recently named by President Donald Ramotar reflects a “tightening of control by PPP apparatchiks,” saying that there was no attempt to bring in fresh faces and ideas.
Granger told Stabroek News that most of the new ministers were persons in the PPP’s Central Committee and said that this was unlikely to lend to any significant change in policies and the manner in which Guyana is governed. “It represents a tightening of control by party apparatchiks,” Granger opined.
“What the Guyanese population wanted was change and this Cabinet doesn’t represent change,” Granger opined. Granger, who was APNU’s presidential candidate, said that this was clearly reflected in Tuesday’s incident where several peaceful APNU protestors were shot at by ranks of the Guyana Police Force.
“If what happened yesterday [Tuesday] is an example of new policing under Donald Ramotar we are moving backwards,” he said. Granger said that it was the people’s democratic right to protest, while adding that peaceful unauthorized protests take place all over the world in democratic countries. “It is really barbaric,” he said, noting that the police were clearly operating under instructions. Granger noted too that there have been no apologies to date from the government or the police force over the shooting.
Meanwhile, Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan told Stabroek News that he was not surprised by Ramotar naming an all PPP/C cabinet, noting that it constitutes many of the persons who made up Bharrat Jagdeo’s cabinet.
Describing it as a case of “musical chairs,” Ramjattan said the indication was there ever since Ramotar began singing the tune of “continuity” on the campaign trail.
Ramjattan, who was his party’s presidential candidate at the recent polls, said it was Ramotar’s choice to name an all-PPP/C cabinet, adding that this decision was made in spite of the calls for a government of national unity. He said the AFC would not have excluded itself from this process. According to him, no one could force the government into “a marriage of convenience” and he emphasised that the fault lay in the 1980 Constitution, which the PNC had implemented while it was in office. “The ghost of [Forbes] Burnham has come back to haunt the PNC, the biggest component of APNU,” Ramjattan said.
Ramjattan pointed to Article 177 of the Constitution, which he said prevented the emergence of a coalition government and other interesting possibilities.
Article 177 (1) says “Any list of candidates for an election held pursuant to the provisions of article 60 (2) shall designate not more than one of those candidates as a presidential candidate. An elector voting at such an election in favour of a list shall be deemed to be also voting in favour of the presidential candidate named in the list.” Article 177 (2) further says, “Where- (a) there is only one presidential candidate at the election; or (b) there are two or more presidential candidates, if more votes are cast in favour of the list in which a person is designated as presidential candidate than in favour of any other list, that presidential candidate shall be deemed to be elected as President and shall be so declared by the Chairman of the Elections Commission acting only in accordance with the advice of the Chief Election Officer, after such advice has been tendered to the Elections Commission at a duly summoned meeting.”
Ramotar, on Monday, swore in 20 ministers of government, which included only five newcomers. The newcomers were Anil Nandlall as Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General; Juan Edghill as Minister within the Finance Ministry; Ganga Persaud as Minister of Local Government; Dr Nanda Gopaul as Labour Minister; and Ali Baksh as the Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture. Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, Transport Minister Robeson Benn, Housing Minister Irfaan Ali, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett retained their portfolios from the Jagdeo administration, while others were rotated. Former junior Finance Minister Jennifer Webster now heads the Ministry of Human Services; former Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy was moved to the Ministry of Agriculture and former Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand was moved to the Ministry of Education. Former Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud was appointed to head the new Natural Resources and the Environment ministry.