The editorial in the Sunday Stabroek of December 11 is a most troubling one for its attack on the APNU and its main constituent forces, the PNC and the WPA. Since the PNC can take care of itself, I shall seek only to come to the defence of the WPA.
The editorial, in utilizing some fear-mongering terms associated with the PPP, criticizes “some of the WPA leaders along with one or two ex-military men of the PNC [for] talking in very militant terms at a time when negotiating skills are at a premium. In the case of the WPA, a party which had long talked of shared governance, it raises the question as to whether it truly believes in that at all [my emphasis] since after being given the opportunity to work with other parties, its leaders, at least, are on the barricades instead.“ The editorial then goes on to state that “contrary to what they [PNC ex-military] or the WPA might be tempted to think, a national unity government cannot be imposed by force or threats or demonstrations; it is a contradiction in terms and a denial of the democratic process.” These are strong words that warrant a reply
The people of Guyana have seen what negotiations alone have produced for the PNC and its 19 years in opposition: an executive running rampant and a Parliament in which it was not possible to amend any bills initiated by the PPP no matter how cogent the arguments of the opposition. It is true that the WPA has the opportunity to work (in the Parliament) with the other parties, but it should not make the mistake of believing in the good intentions of the PPP which has shown that it is in the game of winner-take-all politics. The PPP should realize that lack of trust can be a mutual phenomenon
Experience suggests that the PPP in Parliament will employ the tactics of stall, filibuster and derail, rather than cooperation and compromise, knowing full well that, in the meantime, it will continue to enjoy the ‘benefits‘ of day-to-day running of the government, unless the opposition dares to call for an early vote of confidence and resulting new elections. The WPA has no illusions about the limitations of the power of Parliament under the current constitution.
The WPA cannot be accused of not believing in shared governance. It should be remembered that it is the same WPA that, in 1992, entered into an alliance with the PPP/C in Region 8, which resulted in both parties getting an additional seat and in the process facilitated the latter’s formation of a majority government. That is the ultimate expression of sharing and shows the intrinsic willingness of the WPA to work with other parties.
The WPA is therefore striving for a Government of National Unity because it realizes that such a political formation is the only one that has meaning in Guyana, given the nature of the emperor-like powers of the executive president and the latter’s sole authority in making appointments of cabinet ministers (who make the decisions about the allocation of resources, including land, financial and business aspects, plus wages and salaries) judges, senior civil servants, boards of public corporations and agencies, etc. In addition, the president determines whether Parliament is convened or prorogued. Very important, the president can effectively veto any legislation emanating from the Parliament whose only ultimate recourse to get the president to sign is by way of a two-thirds majority, which is impossible given the party composition of the House.
Why then should the WPA eschew agitating (the time-honoured method for pursuing civil and economic rights the world over) for a Government of National Unity in these circumstances? Let it be known that the WPA has not given up fighting for change, within the context of APNU’s full reform agenda, via the parliamentary process. However, the two processes, parliamentary and executive, are not mutually exclusive. It is a case of walking on two legs. The slender and fragile opposition majority in Parliament is not sufficient to ensure the level of non-marginalization, social cohesion and general stability required for rapid and sustained economic development
Finally, a Government of National Unity represents the ultimate expression of shared governance and the full flowering of the democratic process. No minority government (with for example 48%) should be allowed to exercise 100% executive power under a system of proportional representation.
Therein lies the true contradiction. Instead of criticizing the legitimate aspirations of the WPA and indulging in lecturing bordering on hectoring, more energy should be devoted to asking questions about the sincerity of the PPP and its rush to form the so-called new cabinet without taking time off for reflection or engaging in any form of discussion thereon with the opposition, One of the first orders of business when the new Parliament convenes should be a call for a referendum on the powers of the Burnham bequeathed presidency, which the PPP had been so fond of attacking prior to assuming power in 1992.
Administrator Rodney House
Working People’s Alliance