Goolsarran decides against forming party, welcomes opposition alliance talks

Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran this evening said that he has decided against the formation of a political party to contest the scheduled May 11 polls.

In a statement following a report in Stabroek News that he was considering entering the political fray, Goolsarran said he welcomed the talks for an opposition alliance and appealed for persons to vote at the upcoming elections on the basis of programmes rather than ethnic sentiment.

He said that the selection of candidates on the basis of ethnic considerations has “devastated this country for over half a century”.

His statement follows:

STATEMENT BY ANAND GOOLSARRAN ON THE

FORMATION OF A POLITICAL PARTY

 

Since my return to Guyana in February 2012, I have been trying my best to be of service to my country within the area of my technical and professional competence. My first task was to write President Ramotar offering my services, and I cited my interest in being a member of the Public Procurement Commission or the Integrity Commission. I received a mere acknowledgement from the Head of the Presidential Secretariat. Last year, I met the President at Mr. Yesu Persaud’s farewell function, and in passing, I enquired about his recollection of my letter. His reaction was that I have since moved on to other endeavours!

As a member of the public, I attended the first session of the National Assembly in 2012 at which the budget was presented. It was also the Assembly’s first meeting since the 2011 elections. I was extremely alarmed at the degree of animosity that the ruling party displayed, especially towards the members of Parliament from the Alliance for Change (AFC). It was evident that this animosity came about because the AFC had gained enough of a foothold in the ruling party’s stronghold to cause the combined Opposition to gain control over the Legislature. The skills of at least three members on the Government’s side were on full display, that of heckling and trying to disrupt every Opposition member that spoke. One gets the impression that these persons were selected as MPs for that particular skill only. Even the scene of a fish market was far more saintly and serene than that which occurred on that day in the highest decision-making body of our dear land. Moses Nagamootoo and Khemraj Ramjattan were shouted on and insulted by the Minister of Finance for seeking simple clarifications on the budget, while Carl Greenidge was not spared of the Minister’s venom for the simple mistake of referring to the incorrect section of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.

To date, I have chosen not to return to witness any of the subsequent debates in the Assembly. I vowed that if ever I return, it would not be as a spectator but rather a legislator in the hope of assisting in bringing to bear on the work of the Assembly, the level of dignity, decorum, respect and humility in discussing the affairs of the Nation. We are elected to public office to be the humble servants of our people. Instead, some of us have chosen to be their arrogant masters!

I did quite a number of television programmes with Mr. Yesu Persaud. It was he who suggested that I become a regular weekly columnist with the Stabroek News which was kind enough to allow my column “Accountability Watch” to be published every Monday. To date, I would have completed 137 articles spanning a variety of topics on governance, transparency and accountability. In the not-too-distant future, I propose to publish in book form a collection of selected articles.

I also became involved in the work of Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc. (TIGI), first as Vice President, then President. It was in these capacities that I had to bear the brunt of character assassination and personal vilification from the State-owned and pro-Government media houses for speaking out on issues relating to governance, transparency and accountability. Last August, I resigned as President in order to undertake an overseas assignment. That assignment has since been completed and I returned home.

Last December, I happened to be in Guyana, and I attended TIGI’s annual fundraising dinner. It was at this event that the idea of forming a political party germinated. I wanted to remain with TIGI and to continue with my column in the Stabroek News but I was plagued with a number of troubling thoughts. Should I stay out of politics and continue with what I am currently doing, considering that all the shortcomings and deficiencies that I would have drawn to attention were ignored by those in authority? Am I not wasting my life? Or should I not get involved in the political struggle in the hope that one day I would be in a position to influence change for the good of the country. Which role is likely to better serve the higher good and the public interest – remaining with TIGI and writing my weekly column; or getting involved in politics? Should I join an existing political party, or initiate the formation of a new party?

After days and weeks of agonizing thought, I must confess that my calling remains that of continuing in the service of my country, perhaps in a different capacity, especially considering all the latest developments that are taking place at the political front. I do not know what that calling is. In time, it will reveal itself to me.

As regards, the formation of a new political party, I do not believe that the current appetite is in favour of a fourth political force. Besides, the limited time between now and the 11 May, does not permit for any such force to germinate and grow in order to make any meaningful impact. My own view is that if the three existing political parties contest separately the upcoming elections, the results will be no different – an Executive controlled by one party; and the Legislature controlled by the combined Opposition. The new political configuration that arose from the last elections was a glorious opportunity for our elected representatives to work in harmony, and in the spirit of goodwill and compromise for the good of the Nation. We, however, squandered this opportunity and have allowed narrow partisan interest to take precedence over the national interest. Indeed, the last three years have been a disaster for the country because of this attitude.

I am aware that the combined Opposition is in intense dialogue to form a coalition to contest the next elections. This is a most welcome development, and it is my sincere hope that the two political parties involved will find accommodations in the interest of the country. With only two groups vying for political power, there will be only one winner and one loser. Whoever wins will not only form the Government but also controls the Legislature based on our present electoral system. This is not a desirable outcome since an Opposition-controlled Legislature can provide for a significant degree of checks and balances on possible abuse by the Executive. However, given our experience in the last three years, we have no other choice. Perhaps, the time has come for a changed electoral system that provides for the Legislature to be truly independent of the Executive. Legislators should also be allowed to vote on issues based on a thorough examination of pertinent facts and the merits of the arguments, i.e. conscience voting, rather than on party lines.

Finally, it is my sincere hope that we can enjoy a peaceful pre-election period where the political parties are free to discuss with the electorate their programmes for moving the country forward and for improving the lives of our citizens. My wish is for our citizens to cast their votes on the basis of these programmes, rather than on sentiments. This scourge of electing public officials on the basis of ethnic considerations has devastated this country for over half a century. That devastation has placed us second lowest in the Caribbean economically and in several other respects, despite the vastness of our natural resources. We were once the breadbasket of the Caribbean, and Georgetown was the garden city. We need to restore our past glory, and the only way to do so is to elect the right leaders. Meanwhile, I retire into the background to continue with my column in the Stabroek News and any other professional work that may come my way.

 

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