The opposition should demand more money for the office of the Leader of the Opposition

Dear Editor,

This is the party in waiting with the best chance to form the government and they haven’t shown the competence to find out where the money to make the Office of the Leader of the Opposition more effective to represent its constituents is coming from, and demand more for their agenda.

Surely, $1.275 million a month is totally inadequate to execute the obligations of the opposition leader, so he can have a proper war chest to finance the legal and other challenges to the nonsense being perpetrated against us by the PPP. Other expenditures under this head leave one to wonder what our priorities are. We see for example that the presidential guards cost us a whopping $254.5 million per year; the Prime Minister’s secretariat – his secretariat alone – costs us $155 million. To do what he has to do?

The Leader of the Opposition must have access to money to hire lawyers to challenge the court rulings which go against them almost all the time by the acting Chief Justice. If the Attorney General appeals any decision in our courts he is provided with funding by the state, but the opposition has to beg its friends for money to follow through on these matters of national significance or ask their MPs, already poorly paid and hustling a dollar at normal jobs to make ends meet, to do it for them. The end result is that nothing is done and the one sided fiasco continues.

In addition, since the opposition now occupies the majority of the seats in the Parliament, they have the legal capability to bring bills and acts which have been made law in this country to further marginalise them since 1999, back to parliament and make the necessary changes to level the very badly unlevel playing field that is the Guyana political system today.

Because they cannot afford to finance what they are supposed to be doing in the House and in government they continue in a strange paradox of being in motion but going nowhere, and they don’t seem to be able to finance any of the activities which they are entitled to put in motion now that they have a majority in the House and can actually pilot bills through the parliament. Not because President Ramotar is not agreeing to the bills should they stop; they have to keep piling them on top of him until he drowns in them.

A good example that I have been urging, is to bring the Amerindian Act back to parliament and change the name to the Indigenous Peoples Act and make a few other changes which will give the indigenous people more autonomy and more say in how their affairs are conducted; I am sure that the Amerindian organisations would be only too happy to assist with this.

Since the PPP can no longer rely on the Indian vote because Indo-Guyanese are beginning to see past their agenda, they are now targeting the Amerindians, who because of their isolation don’t know the extent of the corruption of the PPP which we on the coast know. If we tried to amend the Amerindian Act and cut the budget to the Amerindians, since we feel that money asked for by the government will not go to the Indigenous people, but to key people in their communities to bribe them – a known Jagdeo strategy – and the Indigenous people were assured by our actions that the opposition supports their right to have more say in the operation of their ancestral areas, they would know we have their interest at heart and would trust us.

Then there would be no way that the PPP could mobilise a spurious picketing exercise outside the parliament to protest cuts to the budget; such protests would simply be labelled as PPP mischief. Instead we have taken this simpler path of ‘we don’t have any money to bring these bills back to the House.’ If for example we made the changes I suggest to the Amerindian bill, I would dare Mr Ramotar to refuse to assent to it!

We have to stop this cycle of pantomime, where the opposition is deliberately starved by the ruling PPP of the economic necessities to challenge them legally or otherwise, not only officially but unofficially as well, since any supporter of the opposition who has financial resources quickly becomes a target for victimisation by the PPP, especially when the opposition’s impotence to protect its own is well known. And what is worse they don’t understand that they are part of the government as members of the National Assembly.

In fact the Leader of the Opposition is supposed to be a member of the executive under the constitution (Chap-ter X, Article 110) since certain key appointments cannot be made without his assent and it is his job to oppose. The PPP loves to tell the public that so and so is anti-government, but the function of an opposition is to oppose and to expose corruption, incompetence and maladministration. It is what they were elected to do, but oppose with what assets?

The executive has unlimited cash to do whatever they want to the opposition, and frankly, during the budget periods when the opposition had the necessary leverage to make demands over the past three years to level the playing field, they failed us!

 Yours faithfully,

Tony Vieira  

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