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OUR CARIBBEAN: Guyana’s moves for ‘unity’ govt


SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

OUR CARIBBEAN: Guyana’s moves for ‘unity’ govt

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A REFRESHING political breeze seems to be blowing across Guyana that could stimulate efforts among the Guyanese people for improved “inclusionary governance”.

This encouraging development is cautiously taking shape even amid customary bitter political rhetoric and posturings that have sustained social and political divisions, at times quite suffocating, in a country whose national motto proudly proclaims commitment to: “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”.

Long afflicted by the curse of racial divisions that’s rooted in historical self-serving divide-and-rule politics of British colonialism, there is the current phenomenon of the country’s two dominant political parties – the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the main opposition People’s National Congress (PNC) – separately and differently talking the language of “new alliances” to make a reality of broad-based “democratic governance”.

This developing scenario is occurring against the backdrop of increasing public relations “talk” about bridging divisions ahead of a new parliamentary election that’s at least 14 months away.

To cut, for now, the histrionics pertaining to electioneering politics involving the PPP and the PNC since the 1950s, both are differently signalling a welcome awareness of the need for new, creative political initiatives.

Having been kept out of governance of the country for a quarter-century from 1964 – by a process of institutionalised electoral fraud systematically perpetrated by the PNC – the PPP was to return to lead a post-Independence government in October 1992 with a civic component.

Free and fair elections

​Hence, its new official tag as People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). With the passing of its founder/leader, Forbes Burnham in 1986, and the successor leadership of then president Desmond Hoyte (now also deceased), the PNC opted to add “reform” to its name. Therefore its prevailing PNCR status to the PPP’s “civic” component.

Armed with their new hyphenated names, both the PPPC and PNCR contested the October 1992 general elections – the first free and fair elections since 1964. All of the elections since were convincingly won by the incumbent PPPC until that of November 2011 when it failed, by one seat, to secure an overall majority in the 65-member National Assembly.

The PPPC secured 32 of the seats and 48.06 per cent of the valid votes with a 65 per cent response by the electorate.

The PNCR, in collaboration with a coalition of small parties, contested under the umbrella of APNU (A Partnership for National Unity) to obtain 26 seats based on 40.83 per cent of the votes. The remaining seven seats were secured by the Alliance for Change (AFC) with 35 333 and ten per cent of the votes.

The one-seat opposition majority in the 65-member parliament has proved a very challenging experience for governance by the PPPC in face of repeated displays of perceived reckless slash-and-burn politics in debates for approval of the national budget.

This recurring scenario had compelled President Donald Ramotar’s administration to resort to court actions, with positive outcomes. But there remain outstanding cases to be addressed.

However, when the combined APNU/AFC opposition threatened the government with a “no-confidence” motion in parliament where it feels confident of securing victory, based on a combined one-seat majority, President Ramotar lost no time in publicly declaring his intention to authorise a snap general election, consistent with his constitutional powers as head of state.

​​‘Democratic alliance’

​The APNU/AFC opposition subsequently submitted their no-confidence motion to the clerk of parliament. It’s against this background that the governing PPPC and the main opposition APNU, led by the PNCR, are pushing ahead with new political initiatives ahead of an expected snap general election in early 2015, if not during the latter part of this year.

While the PPPC is moving towards expanding into what’s being marketed as a likely wider “National Democratic Front” (PPP/NDF?), the PNCR’s leader, David Granger, a retired brigadier of the Guyana Defence Force, was passionately telling PNCR delegates at the party’s 18th biennial congress in July of the desire for “inclusive governance”.

That call, unfortunately, was drowned by a subsequent upheaval among congress delegates over allegations of rigged voting to ensure leadership command under the 70-year-old Granger.

But, encouragingly, by last week, while President Ramotar continued to reveal the ruling PPPC’s interest for a broad-based “democratic alliance”, even as he maintains confidence in his party again securing a parliamentary majority at forthcoming national elections, the PNCR’s Granger was emphasising his preparedness to “sit and talk” with the PPPC about its declared interest in the formation of a ”national alliance” of parliamentary parties..

If, therefore, all goes well in coming weeks, Guyanese should be able to assess how stimulating political rhetoric about “national unity governance”, based on a “national democratic front alliance”, can assume practical forms to help drown prevailing cynicism over Guyana’s national motto “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”.

*Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.

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