Both the constitutions of Trinidad and Guyana ensure that opposition ethnic constituents remain at the mercy of the ruling ethnic party unless some form of decentralization is enshrined within them to resolve this. Power emanating from the top only guarantees that race issues will continue to be with us for a long time. Even Trinidad’s former Prime Minister Mr Basdeo Panday has become convinced of the urgency for decentralization; the UNC founder/leader feels such changes must be reflected in Trinidad’s constitution. Is there any surprise that Trinidad’s St Joseph by-election of 4th November 2013 was a repeat of Guyana’s 2011 elections with a third party? The by-election was triggered by UNC MP Mr Hulbert Volney’s crossing over to the mini ILP headed by another UNC defector, Mr Jack Warner. The African-based PNM candidate Mr Terrence Deyalsingh won the St Joseph seat with 6,356 votes over the UNC’s candidate Mr Ian Alleyne’s 5,577 votes, a difference of only 779 votes. Attorney Mr Om Lalla of the ILP (which broke away from the ruling People’s Partnership government) got 1,976 votes. If the UNC votes are combined with the ILP’s, they would have won.
The St Joseph by-election is only a reflection of Guyana’s 2011 election results considering the splinter AFC now holds the balance of power. The reality however shows that cross-ethnic voting is a rarity and not the sustaining political panacea to solve race problems and ensure national development. What significant credits the AFC, now in disarray, can gain and use to justify its continued existence in any snap election still remains to be seen.
Both Trinidad and Guyana’s two main dominant Indian/African political parties remain ethnically based as was reflected in the St Joseph by-election. Former Prime Minister Mr Panday is sceptical about any difference that Mr Deyalsingh who won the St Joseph seat for the PNM (which is in opposition with its 13 seats) can ever make for those who voted for him without bowing to the ruling government of Prime Minister Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Can the AFC now quickly readjust to achieve something, anything, for those who voted for them considering they still hold the balance of power?
Wiser in political exile, former Trinidadian Prime Minister Mr Basdeo Panday, commented on the St Joseph’s by-election in the Trinidad Guardian of 6th November 2013. Referring to Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and his leadership of the People’s National Move-ment (PNM), Mr Panday said: “It has nothing to do with new leadership or new management. It’s a hopeless jumping from here to there and no change will come.” On the victory of PNM candidate Mr Deyalsingh, Mr Panday, who has spent 42 years in politics, asked: “What difference does it make? That’s the real question. What difference will it make in the improvement of the quality of life for people of T&T or the people of St Joseph?” Mr
Panday said Mr Deyalsingh will now be in opposition and asked whether the government would give him the resources. “It [the election results] doesn’t change the people’s lives,” he said. Mr Panday added: “The present Constitution caters for two parties. The population has been put into two racial boxes… Under the present Constitution, there is no room for the widest cross-section of the population to participate in the electoral process.” Ob-viously decentralization, ie federalism, not power sharing is the solution for Guyana.