The APNU+AFC coalition government’s shutting out of smaller parties’ input in decision making and attacking constructive criticisms from its supporters not only stifles the coalition’s growth but is giving the opposition positive political artillery.
This is the view of Working People’s Alliance executive David Hinds, who yesterday bemoaned the attitude taken by David Granger-led APNU+AFC government which he charges has “stifled internal diversity of opinion within the party” by allowing for just a few Cabinet members to make decisions.
“The coalition parties must be empowered and energised. A big error of the government is the attempt to run the coalition as a One-Party government. When you have parties with polar-opposite ideological orientations as the PNC and the WPA and with different ethnic bases as the APNU grouping and the AFC, such an approach is bound to be disastrous,” Hinds told Stabroek News, repeating sentiments he expressed in his column in yesterday’s Guyana Chronicle.
“In the end governments govern, but parties win elections. There, therefore, must be a meaningful role for parties especially within a Coalition where parties are pooling their political resources and capital in shaping a common agenda. And always, a government must be mindful, not just about the government representatives of the parties, but equally important they must incorporate the non-governmental sections of the parties. That is my major concern at this point—that we are being hurt by our failure to effectively do so,” he told Stabroek News.
Hinds believes that government’s approach of treating the Coalition as a single entity rather than a partnership has led to a marginalisation of the parties as individual entities. This has in turn led to differences within the parties over their continued role in the process.
“In the case of the WPA, these differences were ventilated at a recent members meeting and at other fora within the party. Party members hold very strong views on both sides of the debate, with many expressing discontent with the party’s lack of participation in real decision making, particularly outside of cabinet.”
Further, he added, “Others expressed sharp disagreement with particular policies and decisions of the government which are inconsistent with the WPA’s values and ideological orientation”.
Hinds says that the “muzzling” of the parties that form the coalition, has been dire for all the parties involved since there is not only infighting within parties, but the opposition PPP/C has made great gains on their lapses.
“The outcome of this approach has been bad for the coalition. The AFC has lost its Indian-Guyanese support, because it is perceived as an uncritical participant in bad policy-making. The WPA faces an internal civil-war, because some of its members believe that it has allowed itself to be silenced and manipulated by the dominant partners in the government,” he posits.
“The PNC’s non-governmental leadership is demoralized, as they are not part of policy-making. These developments have ignited unnecessary tension within the coalition between the AFC and the APNU and between the WPA and the government, which has in turn negatively affected the image of the government and its ability to inspire confidence among its own supporters. This approach must change—for its own good, the coalition must begin to operate like a partnership rather than a unitary entity. Empowering the coalition parties in meaningful ways would in the long run be beneficial to the government and the country,” he added.
Further, Hinds charges that criticisms by party supporters of wrongdoings has seen them face the wrath of government who has taken a ‘blind follower’s’ approach as to how supporters act.
“In some regards, the government seems to be angrier with and willing to confront critique by its supporters than to confront the barrage by the PPP. For example, the anger at Freddie Kissoon, Lincoln Lewis and David Hinds from some top government ministers is much more that at the PPP. Some have opined that our self-critique helps the PPP,” Hinds stated.
“We are known supporters of the government who have made it very clear that we do not want to see the PPP back in power. But some in our government have not learned how to deal with internal creative dissent; they seem to prefer blind loyalty. Some government leaders do not understand the value of creative self-critique and how it puts you on a higher plane than your competitors who are grounded in an ideology of domination. They do not see how Freddie’s critique is more destructive to the PPP than to the coalition or how Lincoln’s cries for the rule of law keeps them from walking the dirty road of the PPP,” he adds.
But Hinds still believes that it is not too late for government to change its governance trajectory to one of listening and reasoning.
“I think the matter can be arrested with the active involvement of the parties in an advisory capacity to the government, something that the APNU committed to at its last executive meeting. The government must govern and the parties must give the government direction, defend the government against the PPP’s attacks, and explain the government’s work to the country. The parties must become the bridge between the government and the people—they must become the political ears and the voices of the government. They must feed the people with nourishment from the government and feed the government with the cries and the concerns of the people. But for them to do all of that in a formal and coordinated manner, they have to be a formal part of the larger process—advising government on big policy direction political tactics,” he stated.
“I don’t know (but) the APNU executive has given a hint of moving in that direction. I am encouraged by that. But my role as a political activist is to use my voice and whatever influence I may have to constantly advocate for it both within the formal councils of the WPA and APNU and in the public space,” he added.
The WPA executive underscored the point that for all supporters and leaders of the coalition the ultimate objective should be winning the 2020 regional and general elections and doing so with a united front.
He said that the PPP’s narrative that the coalition is incompetent, dominating and power struck and wants to see the demise of especially Indo-Guyanese’s wealth, culture and politics must be tackled publicly, consistently and frontally throughout the nation.
“We have to win in 2020 to keep Guyana away from the discredited PPP, but we can only do so if we can show that our stewardship is qualitatively different from the PPP’s in both word and deed. We have to recapture the spirit of 2015 that brought us to power,” Hinds asserted.
“We owe it to our supporters and to all Guyanese at home and abroad to lead a rebirth in our country. Oil wealth is coming, but that by itself will not lift our peoples out of the depths of despair. We have to give enlightened leadership and example in order to fulfill the promise of emancipation and independence. And we have to do it together,” he added.