As a concerned Guyanese, the debate on the Budget, televised on NCN, gave me an opportunity to assess the efforts of the current members of the National Assembly and, without undue modesty, I was amazed that more attention was paid to their personal sartorial image than the special skills and savoir-faire required for membership of that august body. That aside, I got the impression that the elective dictatorship of the opposition, in triumphal demonstration of their one-seat advantage in the Assembly, sought to establish a “tyranny of the majority,” but came across as half-learned and uninformed dilettantes, equipped with neither empirical data nor analytical forensics.
Their actions constituted a potential for the retrogression of the development trajectory of the government over the last 14 years and may well have had an unintended but real counterproductive effect on the business sector. In a market-driven economy, mounting an assault upon this and other sectors can only result in a gravitation, with centrifugal calculus, away from the epicentre of the electorate, thereby hastening the expiry date of their executive ambitions. It may be fair to surmise that this parliamentary opposition, narcoticised by its narcissistic inflation, is on a collision course for self-immolation, somewhat fashionable in recent years, when the victims of their excision exercise their periodic franchise.
The members of parliament of the ruling PPP/C government were not without their share of blame for not making more strident use of the inadequacies and excesses of the opposition who were long on talk but short on the walk, given the constitutional impact of the ruling by the Chief Justice (ag) in the 2012 Budget case. With its consequential limitations on the actions of the opposition, until such time that a reversal is forthcoming, it became obvious that the passage of the Budget, as presented, should have been treated as a fait accompli and not amenable to any excision. No amount of sophistry can circumvent the manifest consequences of the existing order of court and, the fulminations of Carl Greenidge et al notwithstanding, the Speaker, if he observes the integrity and neutrality guidelines set out in Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice (22nd ed) ought to have quashed any attempt at their unlawful enterprise.
At his invitation, I had recently had cause to remind him that the exercise of power without due process is unlawful and ‘due process’ includes the recognition of and giving effect to, court orders. This scornful attitude to the law and public opinion was not unknown in some states of a past era, and studies have shown that this psychological complex of solipsism, typical of an elitist society, underlies the mode of behaviour of the opposition and, in the belief that they are the chosen ones, they should be permitted to act as they like, regardless of the rule of law in a democratic polity.
Political postures and methods are of little value unless they achieve their intended purpose – an impossibility in the face of the extant ruling. Political theory and practice demand that the end justifies the means. H. R Trevor-Roper, Regius Professor of Modem History at Oxford University, so argued in his essay on Niccolo Machiavelli, and he reminded his readers that no revolutionary power can tolerate its avowed enemies. In this respect the purported tyranny embraced by the opposition must be given an F. It is this technical failure of the opposition to relate means to end which ought to have formed the greater focus of the presentations of the PPP/C cadres.
Our constitution, unlike most, if not all others, provides for the supreme executive authority to be exercised by our President. This exercise is facilitated by the cabinet of whom he is the chairman. Since the Budget must be grounded in its origin in the cabinet as provided by the constitution, the National Assembly which, by itself, has merely an inchoate constitutional power, must defer to the executive for the fiscal management of the resources of the state by way of the estimates in the Budget. In this way the development trajectory envisaged by the elected executive is given expression and secured.
Charles R Ramson
Minister of Legal Affairs