The common people are capable of showing greater political wisdom than their political leaders

Dear Editor,

I refer to my letter that was published in Stabroek News on Sunday, March 18, under the caption, ‘WPA should put on its political agenda whether it makes sense to remain in APNU, coalition government’ and in Kaieteur News, on Monday, March 19, captioned, ‘The WPA may have to consider its future in the coalition’. In both instances the letter dealt with the firing of David Hinds and Lincoln Lewis who were columnists for the state-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper.  Since the letter was published a number of persons have contacted me expressing support for the positions I had enunciated. They also shared with me their concerns for what they see as the deterioration of relations between the PNCR and WPA, both of which are founding members of the APNU. In the course of these discussions, three observations that were made by different persons, stood out. However, their insistence that the matters we discussed should be exposed to the wider public was what I found most interesting.  In the end, I conceded to their request, hence the narrative that follows.

The first observation was made by an elderly gentleman, who is not a political activist, but is a person who since the early 1950s has paid more than an ordinary interest in national politics. In our conversation, he pointed out that the problem the WPA is having both in the APNU and the coalition government, is that in the discussion that led to the formation of the APNU, the PNCR’s negotiating team was led by Mr Robert Corbin, the then leader of the party, who understood and believed in the concept and importance of coalition politics, a position not necessarily shared by Mr David Granger who only emerged as the Leader of the PNCR months after the discussions had begun. He was adamant that President Granger feels that he is not bound by either the letter or spirit of the agreements reached between the WPA and Corbin.  I countered by pointing out that the negotiations were party to party and not between leaders. His response was that I am being naïve, since the PNC is a leader driven institution and the leader’s views and positions whether right or wrong, usually prevail.  Given my lack of knowledge of the internal workings in the PNCR, I am unable to confirm or deny the gentleman’s observation. In keeping with the political convention in coalitions that internal party matters are the business of individual parties, it is, therefore, inappropriate for me to indulge in how the PNCR conducts its business. However, I must admit that the observation coming from an elderly citizen, demonstrated a level of political consciousness that is more than remarkable, given the state of national consciousness.

The second observation I wish to address is the contention that President David Granger’s attitude to the WPA may be rooted in his preoccupation with the view that the PNCR Founder Leader, former President Forbes Burnham has not been given the acclamation he deserves, and that consciously or subconsciously Granger sees the WPA as, if not the problem, certainly as a large part of the problem. I don’t know if this is a fair or correct assessment of the President’s position and I am hard-pressed to decide what, if any weight, to put on it. But I do believe it will be politically unwise of me to dismiss this suggestion outright, since I have been around long enough to be aware that in PNCR circles, there have been and continue to be, concerns that the late President of Guyana, Forbes Burnham, has been demonized by the political opposition, which included the WPA. In light of this prevailing view, it is more than likely that President Granger shares the same opinion. But to what extent his present actions are influenced by that consideration is an open question. What-ever is the President’s position on that matter it is one he is entitled to. It is not my intention here to express an opinion as to whether or not Mr Burnham has been accorded his rightful place in Guyana’s historical political landscape and the respect and acclaim his  contribution to Guyana’s development deserves.

At the end of my testimony before the Walter Rodney Com-mission of Inquiry, I placed on the public record my position on Burnham. I said then that I have moved on, and Burnham is not a political or a personal problem for me in the present equation. I also said that I have forgiven him for any wrong he has done to me personally or politically and meant every word of it.

My contention now is that the PNCR leaders, who are either in or out of government, if they are serious in their concerns about Burnham’s image and legacy, have to be mindful of the way they are perceived in the governance of the country. In a real way, Burnham’s legacy and his final place in the nation’s history lie solely in the political conduct of those who have laid claim to be his disciples.  In a major way, their success or failure in government will determine the Founder Leader’s legacy.

While Burnham and Jagan as the founding fathers of the nation, who are both deceased, can in some respect be excused for their political shortcomings, the same cannot be said for the present leaders across the political divide, since they have the benefit of learning from the pitfalls of the previous leaders.

The third and final observation was that unlike the AFC, WPA has no Cummingsburg agreement to relate to and President Granger is taking advantage of this situation. His sole concern is with the political deal that he struck with the AFC, and not the agreement that led to the formation of the APNU. For Granger, the imperative of realpolitik, given the strategic position of the AFC in determining the life of the coalition government, is what he is concerned with. He can justify his actions as being politically prudent. In response, to this argument, I said that the WPA is not asking to be treated with the same importance as the AFC in the APNU+AFC government. We were part of the Cummings-burg negotiations and understand the modalities. I emphasized that our concern is with the internal relations in the APNU and the apparent doctrine that prevails in the government, that the cabinet is not accountable to the political parties that the Guyanese people voted for. In short, WPA rejects the cabinet usurping the party’s responsibility to make policies. As things are the parties play no role, the cabinet dominates.

When the common people raise political issues like those mentioned above, it boggles the mind that they are capable of showing greater political wisdom, than their political leaders.

Yours faithfully,

Tacuma Ogunseye

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