I write with reference to Mr. Sherwood Lowe’s letter, `Personal conscience irrelevant in no-confidence motion’ (SN Dec. 24th). Mr. Lowe was discussing Mr. Charrandas Persaud’s historic vote that caused the Coalition government to fall from power.
I had posted a comment on SN’s web edition in which I had argued that Charrandas had indeed voted his conscience. This is how Sherwood responded:
“My point is NOT whether or not the man voted his conscience. I am saying his conscience, however defined, was IRRELEVANT. See the big difference? Totally irrelevant, because he was not there to represent himself. He was there to represent his party and its supporters. He accepted the MP position on that clear understanding. For THREE YEARS. If he no longer could uphold that agreement, he should have RESIGNED or ABSTAINED. That is the decent and honest way”.
To make this perfectly clear, Sherwood is saying that the MP is at the command of the party leader – and must vote the way the leader commands him to do. It is like earning your seat on the basis of a contract with the party leader. (Maybe that is the List System of Guyana’s party politics).
That is not the way party politics works. Anyone who becomes a member of a party does so because of a commonality of political philosophy, ideas, policies and programmes. There cannot be total dissonance and disagreement between the MP and the party leader. When the MP votes for a bill or supports a policy, he does so because of his own volition – his heart is in it – and not because of a command from the party leader. An MP cannot be reduced permanently to a robot-like being, devoid of political values and conscience.
Shortly, after the Coalition government took office in 2015, a chasm opened up between the AFC supporters and the Coalition government. Charrandas had itemized many of the bills and policies implemented by the government that were at variance with AFC supporters in his district. It was as if AFC was never a good fit for the PNCR in the first place. What brought PNCR and AFC together was their visceral opposition to the PPP government, but not agreement on common programmes and policies. It could also be the PNCR violated the spirit of the Cummingburg Agreement, usurped power and disrespected the AFC.
The framers of British Constitutions (Guyana’s is a hybrid) wisely placed the No-Confidence (NC) clause there for a purpose. Whenever there is a sense that the government has lost the support of the majority of the populace, the NC clause can be triggered. Abolish the NC clause, and you open the front and back doors to corruption – it becomes an invitation for corrupt leaders to implement all kinds of bad policies and commandeer their MP’s to support them.
Guyana’s List System should be abolished. Go back to geographical constituencies. Anyone wishing to become an MP must reside in the district and win nomination in the district more or less on his own. After winning a primary contest, he/she may be endorsed by the candidates’ chosen party. This way the MP will feel a stronger obligation to represent his district and not become Yes-men to his party.