Greeted by a small protest by opposition supporters during his first official visit to his hometown of Whim, Berbice, since the May 11 elections, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo yesterday extended an invitation to the parliamentary opposition to join a national unity government.
“We are prepared to open the doors to the PPP if they want to enter this government because we want to have an all-inclusive government,” Nagamootoo told Berbicians who gathered at the Whim Community Centre ground yesterday.
Nagamootoo extended the invitation to the opposition moments before the conclusion of his speech at the first Office of the Prime Minister-organised community outreach meeting at Whim village yesterday afternoon. Nagamootoo said that his administration doesn’t have anything against the People’s Progressive Party.
“[The] PPP has received fair chunks of the votes from the elections. They are a creditable opposition and we would like them to join the process of governance and engage in talks with us…,” he added.
According to Nagamootoo, he is leading a committee that will engage the leadership of the PPP “so that we can cooperate on things we have to do for Guyana.” Nagamootoo noted that the opposition controls seven of the ten administrative regions and the government cannot overlook that. “We want to enter into a fruitful relationship… not a picketing party but a party that comes to the table to hold talks,” he said.
Nagamootoo added that the government is serious about issues facing the country. “We have a calibre of leadership. David and I, we consult and share the running of the Cabinet. We share the supervision of ministerial and national tasks.
We engage in issues that require solutions. We want to sit with the PPP and thrash out differences. We want to move forward and need all hands on deck,” he explained.
Nagamootoo’s comments came in wake of suggestions that he and the AFC were being sidelined in the coalition government, although the coalition’s Cummingsburg Accord had indicated he would have had more responsibility in the new government.
Nearly two dozen protestors, who were nearly all bearing placards, greeted Nagamootoo when he arrived at the community centre ground. They shouted, “Moses betrayed Whim,” and, “He is a disgrace to Whim.” Dr. Veerasammy Ramayya was greeted with similar invectives when he arrived, while some stated that he was not qualified for his recent appointment as Regional Executive Officer (REO). The protestors, who were not all from Whim, spent about an hour outside the ground.
Meanwhile, Nagamootoo used the meeting to announce that he will be appointing a representative of his office to be stationed in Berbice to listen to issues affecting residents.
He stated that the representative would be responsible for channeling the complaints to the respective ministers and officials for their attention. “We are here to be of service to you and attend to your needs and problems… we are your servants,” he said.
Nagamootoo also used the occasion to announce the appointment of Ramayya as the Region Six REO. “He always said he wanted a position to serve Berbice. I was appointing him as the Prime Minister Representative in Berbice but I realised that would have limited him and now he is now the Regional Executive Officer,” Nagamootoo explained.
Ramayya last month announced that he had quit the Alliance for Change (AFC) while charging that Berbicians were not adequately represented in the APNU+AFC coalition government.
Ramayya, who had been a key member for years and represented the AFC in the 10th Parliament, said he was offered an assistant position in either the Ministry of Agriculture or the Office of the Prime Minister but had declined the offer made to him by Nagamootoo.
“Moses told me that they would give me one staff and pay me $180,000 per month; be my own chauffeur and use my own vehicle… that is not (an acceptable) position for me for what I have done for the party,” he had said then.
He said he was also offered the opportunity to return as a Member of Parliament but he declined because he would have to stay in the city and therefore would not be able to work effectively in Berbice.
His appointment as REO has since been criticised by the PPP, which called the appointment “hypocritical” as it said that the APNU+AFC government’s rationale for the removal of various REOs since taking office has been that they were politically aligned.
To loud applause, Nagamootoo told the meeting yesterday that the region was allocated $260 million in this year’s budget for capital expenditure and Berbicians should pressure the regional administration to deliver with the funds. He told the gathering to ensure the administration uses the resources to build better roads, create better drainage systems, and bridges, and better grounds.
“This is time for action. Time for words are behind us. Time for cuss down and negative politics is done behind us. It is time to pay attention to our people and building [our nation],” he said.