Introduction: Stabroek News has invited the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) to submit a weekly column on governance and related matters. Only APNU and the AFC have submitted a column this week.
As Guyanese move into election mode, A Partnership for National Unity will continue to focus on plans to make good governance a reality. The coalition will focus on issues which affect the people, instead of on personalities and political figures — issues such as the rule of law, and its role in democratic governance.
The rule of law is the principle that law should govern a nation as opposed to arbitrary decisions by individual government officials. Rule of law is a cornerstone of good governance; it is essential for human rights, including those of indigenous peoples, women, minorities, children, those with disabilities, and the economically disadvantaged. Every citizen should be subject to the law including lawmakers and officials. Government must conduct its business within the ambit of the law. In the absence of the rule of law, the rights of citizens can be trampled upon, officials can get away with crimes, and the people lose confidence in state law enforcement agencies.
The current People’s Progressive Party administration’s disregard for the law is shameless and blatant. The highest law in the land, the Constitution, requires that local government elections (LGE) be held every three years. The Jagdeo/Ramotar PPP has bluntly refused to comply. The result: since 1997, citizens have been deprived of their right to choose their own local representatives. The PPP regime has ignored all calls by Guyanese for the holding of LGE. International calls for LGE have been met with crass hostility from PPP officials. United States Ambassador Brent Hardt was subject to a “feral blast” from Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, in his own home. British High commissioner Andrew Ayre was labelled a pariah, by Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon for daring to remind the PPP of the need to adhere to constitutional requirements.
The PPP elite openly flout the law without facing sanction. Ministers of government have been accused of assaulting citizens in drunken brawls, knocking people down with vehicles, and other misconduct, and none has faced any consequences. An investigation concluded in June 2012, recommended legal action against NCN Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Sattaur, and Production Manager Martin Goolsarran, after millions of dollars were diverted to private pockets. President Ramotar did nothing about it. Instead, his administration continues to flout statutes and court-orders. Ramotar has recently been urged and advised by former President Jagdeo to not only continue with the administration’s lawless behaviour but to ‘kick asses’ if there continues to be opposition to his undemocratic and unlawful actions!
In February 2015, the regime approved a loan from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, to the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA). After the legality of the transaction was challenged by opposition officials and the courts intervened, the Ramotar cabinet cancelled the loan and ordered — in total disregard for the law and the questions from the court — that $3 billion be simply transferred to the CH&PA. The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh has authorized the expenditure of $4,500 millions which were disapproved in the 2014 Budget; an act of brazen and perhaps unparalleled recklessness, one ruled to be illegal by the Chief Justice.
As the PPP government, its officials and their friends continue to trample on Guyana’s laws, citizens have lost confidence in the Guyana Police Force (GPF), the country’s premier law enforcement institution. At a forum at the US Embassy on March 4, 2015 it was revealed that Guyana’s police are the least trusted in the region. According to surveys conducted by the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), confidence in the GPF has been in steady decline since 2006. Guyanese, according to the survey, may not even bother to call the police any more; people report that the police just do not come when crimes, such as burglaries, are reported. What does this say about the state of law enforcement in Guyana?
The APNU+AFC coalition commits itself to restoring the rule of law. The partnership agrees with the ancient philosopher Aristotle who wrote that, “the law should govern.” No one should be above it. In a coalition administration, no one — including lawmakers and officials — will be allowed to disregard the fundamental rights of any citizen, and get away with it. No person will be permitted to trample on the fundamental freedoms to which Guyanese are legally entitled.
The APNU+AFC partnership recognises that laws are there for a reason. Statutes are intended to guide the conduct of official government business. The coalition knows that laws must constrain the behaviour of its officials. The coalition is committed to fighting corruption, malfeasance and impropriety, by adhering to the law of the land.
Guyanese have a choice: we can either choose to allow the current state-of-affairs to continue, or we can vote for positive change. Citizens must choose wisely. On May 11, in the privacy of the polling booth, Guyanese must — for our own sake and the future of our children — vote to remove the lawless PPP regime and usher in a new era. It is time for change. It is time that all citizens be treated equally and equitably. It is time for Guyanese to choose to restore the rule of law over lawlessness, transparency over secrecy, and respect for each other over disregard for the needs of others.
There will be no ‘Ashnigate’, ‘Priyagate’, ‘Marriottgate’ and ‘Anilgate’ in an APNU+AFC administration. Guyana will start the climb back toward civility, decency and a return to respect for the rule of law in public administration on May 12, 2015.