WPA urges preconditions for opposition talks with gov’t

-says engagement has yielded little

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) yesterday demanded that any further dialogue by APNU with the government be tied to the consideration of several proposals, including the setting up of the Public Procurement Commission.

The party made the call at a press conference during which executive members Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, Dr. Rishi Thakur, Tabitha Sarabo and Dr. David Hinds, explained the rationale behind their party’s move. APNU leader David Granger later said that the party’s dissatisfaction was never communicated to him. (See story on page 12)

From left are WPA Executive Members, Rupert Roopnaraine, Tabitha Sarabo, David Hinds and Dr Rishi Thakur
From left are WPA Executive Members, Rupert Roopnaraine, Tabitha Sarabo, David Hinds and Dr Rishi Thakur

Among the plethora of demands being made by the WPA are the removal of obstacles to the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC); the rescinding of radio licenses granted by the administration of former president Bharrat Jagdeo and the amendment of the Broadcast Act to bring the legislation in line with international best practice.

The party also demanded the placing of NICIL, Lotto and Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) monies and all other funds into the Consolidated Fund; the immediate establishment of an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate instances of official corruption at all levels of the state; and the re-submission to the National Assembly of the Bills vetoed by the President as well as the freeing of state-owned broadcast and print media from the control of the ruling party “to ensure unbiased news coverage and unobstructed access to the widest range of political opinions.”

Some of these demands have been made by APNU as well as the Alliance for Change (AFC), though the AFC has been more aggressive and has insisted that government meet their demands before dialogue or cooperation of any kind is agreed upon.

Hinds – a longstanding member of the WPA – has never hesitated to laud the AFC for the “hard-line” position they have adopted, and has criticised what he sees as APNU’s failure to effectively use their clout in parliament as a bargaining tool to work towards a government of national unity. He said that APNU has not called for some of the demands outlined yesterday hence the WPA was prompted to make the call.

The WPA executive emphasized that the WPA’s decision to address the public in its own right should not be taken as a fracture or a split of any kind. In fact, he said that the WPA will be fighting both inside the coalition and under its own name for the implementation of all of the proposals outlined. He noted that all members of APNU including his own party have always retained their individuality and have been observing the way the progress or lack thereof made as a result of engagements between government and the various opposition parties. He said that the party decided to make this intervention after carefully considering the political realities which currently prevail.

Further explaining the move, Thakur said that a wide section of Guyanese have always embraced the core principles -transparency, inclusion and transformation – championed by the WPA.  These values, Thakur said, has remained with the party despite the coalition, and the party intends to impose these values upon the system which currently obtains.

Meantime, according to Sarabo, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government, since it came into power in 1992, has trampled on efforts at national reconciliation and has ignored arguments for a national government. It was this posture on the part of the government, she said, which prompted the WPA to support the amalgamation of the political parties which became APNU. She said that APNU embodied the desire by the various parties for a change in the political status-quo which existed pre-2011.

Sarabo said that though the government retained the reins of government in the 2011 elections, history was made as the opposition was able to secure the majority in parliament.

Hinds has long said, and yesterday repeated, that a golden opportunity was rejected by government who refused to incorporate the now majority opposition into governing affairs of the state. This is a clear indication that the government wishes to maintain the one-party management of the state, the WPA said in a prepared statement read by Sarabo.

Hinds said that the WPA is optimistic that dialogue between government and the joint opposition would yield changes, and as such, supported this initiative. However, he yesterday expressed dissatisfaction. “We are disappointed that the engagement has yielded little in the way of positive outcome. The government seems bent on using the dialogue as a means of neutralizing the opposition while persisting with the policies and practices of the pre-2011 era,” Sarabo said.

Hinds noted the attitude of government of denying and attempting to cover up instances of corruption which now plague many sectors. Hinds said that even the international community has lambasted the government for not doing enough to address many of the issues.

Thakur, meanwhile, said that even the average man, realising the benefits of corrupt practices, use it as leverage to achieve various ends. He added that because government refuses to adequately address this issue, the proliferation of corruption has continued.

Sarabo, echoing the party’s position, said that the reconciliation needed in Guyana is impossible if a national government is not realised. As such, she said, the WPA is urging that public campaigns be initiated to create traction, and for a Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reform be set in motion so as to “get the ball rolling.”

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