July 24, 2016

The Solider and the State

Political Scientist Samuel Huntington underscored the importance and the need for civilian control of the modern day military as he argued passionately that it should always remain “professional” and free from undue political interference and manipulation.
Huntington in his widely published and award winning book, “The Solider and the State”, explained the role that the State must play in order to ensure that the military functions competently, independently and within a clearly specified framework that sees it serving the wider interest of the general public as far as the protectionism of borders and international security is concerned.
To a lesser extent, he explores too the role between the military and other law enforcement agencies whenever the need arises for action to be taken domestically to ward off internal security threats to the State and its civilians.
In short, his advancement of the civilian control over the military theory sees the State and Military as two completely separate entities that turn to a country’s constitution for guidance on how, and to what extent they must relate, intermix and respect each other.
In Guyana, a significant portion of the country’s National Budget totalling billions of dollars have been spent in professionalising the Guyana Defence Force while beefing up the resources for it to pursue its core objectives independently.
Over the past two-and-a-half decades, focus has been placed on allowing the Guyana Defence Force the autonomy it needs to make core decisions about its future, organisational and operational mandates, and the extent to which it wants to become involved in civilian affairs.
This autonomy has been largely guided by the framework set out in the Constitution and the broad policy objectives adumbrated by the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces who in Guyana’s case is its Executive President cum Head of State.
Throughout this period, there was de-politicisation of the GDF, which it is argued by many, had a long history of playing a key role in the execution of political orders that saw the rigging of consecutive democratic elections, suspension of key political freedoms from opponents and the harassment of a selected group of civilians under the instructions of former Prime Ministers, Presidents, Ministers and politicians associated with the successive ruling People’s National Congress administration.
This saw the GDF engaging in key humanitarian exercises to benefit civilians and staying exclusively out of affairs that should largely concern the democratically elected government and its advisors.
But since the new A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change Government has taken office, there seems to be a fundamental shift in both the operational and domestic relations policy of the entity.
It would appear that the GDF, its veterans, retirees and a select group of personnel are now very intertwined and actively involved in the management, investigation and supervision of key activities, programmes and projects that concern civilians at the behest of the government.
Over the past months, both President David Granger and his trusted aide Joseph Harmon have presided over a slew of appointments of sitting and current GDF officers as CoI Heads, probe Commissioners, Advisors in core government departments and state department heads.
These personnel include Rt Brigadier Bruce Lovell (Head – Dataram probe), Rt Colonel Windee Algeron (Head – Drop-in Centre probe), Rt Major General Joe Singh (Head – Mining Pitt Collapse probe), Rear Admiral Gary Best (Climate Change Advisor), Colonel Nazrul Hussain (Head – National Events Planning Dpt), Lieutenant Colonel Sydney James (SOCU Head), and retired Brigadier Edward Collins (Security Advisor) to name a few on a list that continues to grow as the days go by.
From the decisions taken by Government to appoint former military personnel to key state boards and agencies to its apparent favour for persons with a paramilitary background, it appears that civilians are no longer being considered as either competence or qualities to lend assistance in the areas where these former and current military personnel are parachuted.
The now opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic had warned in the lead-up to the 2015 elections that this would happen and has already sounded the alarm, following a series of strange events related to the operations of SOCU, the State Assets Recovery Unit, the Police and other agencies which they believe are pursuing political objectives.
President Granger, a former Brigadier himself, must reconsider his approach as it appears that there is strategic militarisation of the State and Government, and a calculated effort to reduce the influence of civilians in affairs related to governance.
He must take stock of the decision made and seek to chart a different course that would dispel suspicions that a police state is being created or something else sinister is afoot.
The GDF too must insist that its sitting ranks not become involved in the operations of the State or quasi-political overtures in a bid to protect its image and ward-off political manipulation from the Government.

CPL’s Guyana tourism impact

Patriotism, national pride and excitement ran high as thousands of Guyanese flocked the Guyana National Stadium at Providence to be part of four exciting Hero Caribbean Premier League home matches which will no doubt have a continuing redounding positive impact on the country’s overall economic and tourism development.
It must be stated from the outset that the Hero CPL managed to also unify a very much divided Guyana as persons from all sections of society regardless of their race, creed, sexual orientation and political persuasion rallied behind the so far triumphant Guyana Amazon Warriors.
So high was the amount of unity and cohesiveness during the past three weeks that it is widely believed that the tournament stood out as one of the clear examples of avenues that could be used to push the Government’s social cohesion agenda by the utilisation of sport as a mechanism to bridge social and racial gaps that exist in our society.
It was this unity and display of cohesiveness that has no doubt motivated and inspired the good performances delivered by the players and organisers of the 2016 tournament thus far. While Guyana would have again lost its bid to host the finals of the game, Providence remains one of the most talked about, hyped and packed venues when compared to the others in the league as far as hosting international cricket events and CPL matches are concerned.
Also, the Hero CPL games came to Guyana at a time when there has been a notable slowdown in domestic trade and business. Interestingly, the tournament came to the country at a time too when small businesses were struggling to catch their hands because of various factors which were working against them while depleting their expected levels of revenues and profitability.
It therefore provided these small businesses with an opportunity to maximum their profits through sale of small portions of confectionaries near the stadium and at other Hero CPL-associated parties and events. It provided those who signed up officially for the bread and breakfast initiative with another means of garnering revenue because scores of overseas-based Guyanese returned home while there was an increase in tourist arrivals for the matches here.
Larger scale businesses and companies also benefited tremendously from the hosting of CPL matches here and while many of them would have maximised the marketing opportunities available via the tournament to boost sales and achieve brand popularity, others settled for just mounting promotions to give back to their loyal customers by providing them opportunities to join the biggest party in sport.
The Hero CPL also saw the occupancy rates at local hotels, bars, sports clubs, and community shops who had access to the televised games broadcast significantly boosted as well as their profitability.
The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change Government’s endorsement of the event and the laudable involvement of key ministers and personnel in handing out of awards and participation in local Hero CPL events demonstrates their commitment to the development of sport, the success of the Guyana Amazon Warriors and the upwards movement of the direct and indirect benefits to the country’s young tourism sector because of market access and promotional opportunities for Destination Guyana.
Research shows that the Guyana economy leads others in the league as far as the benefits it accrues from the injection of millions of US dollars each year it hosts the tournament, leaving out the other noteworthy indirect benefits.
As such more companies should get on-board the league by entering into mutual and lucrative deals with the Guyana Franchise owners and providing various forms of endorsement and sponsorship for the Amazon Warriors whenever allowed and applicable according to the existing rules and agreement framework.
Secondly, the Government led by its Education, Tourism and Business ministries must do much more to press the owners of the Hero CPL and the regional organisers to bring the semifinals and finals to Guyana even if it means investing more resources and incentives for this to happen.
The truth is, Guyana is a cricket-starved nation and the Hero CPL provides an opportunity for the hunger of cricket lovers and supporters to be satisfied; even if a lot of other regional and international matches are not brought as we would like to the country.
As the Warriors continue their bid for dominance in this year’s tournament, every Guyanese is duty bound to stand solidly behind the team and its franchise owners who have brought so much entertainment, cricket fun and countless opportunities for business to these shores over the last few years via their continued sponsorship and involvement in the league.

Strange Fruit, Black Lives Matter

In 1939, Billie Holiday performed the song “Strange Fruit” in protest of the escalating levels of racism that were prevailing in the United States which saw mostly black men being lynched and badly beaten by white Americans as the struggle for civil and equal rights gained momentum there.
The song which was originally a poem speaks to the many injustices committed against black Americans who most times could not benefit in any way from the then crooked and unfair justice system which favoured whites and worked against minorities and immigrants of colour.
In short, the song which has been covered countless times by black activists and celebrities makes the point that ‘Black Lives Matter’ as it encouraged a reshaping of not only divisive, unfair and racist politics in the US but championed the need for judicial reform and social justice.
The song along with many other artistic works, and the voice as well as actions of many civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King led the struggle for equality, justice and an end of racism in the US for decades with significant progress being recorded at various points in the movement.
Sadly, the progress recorded has not been enough for there to be a permanent resolution to the problems which have been eating away at the moral and social fabric of the American society.
The recent shooting to death of two black Americans – Alton and Philando – by Police have brought the issue of racism in the US back into sharp focus.
After all, statistics show that for 2016 over 123 blacks have been killed by police so far and the figures may very well climb over the remaining months if there are no significant reforms or a complete shift in psyche of White Americans and those who propel the notion of ‘race supremacy’.
Already, the outrage is growing following these shootings and with the US Presidential Race in full swing, issues related to gun violence, police brutality and killing of blacks for minor offences and immigration are taking centre stage.
In fact, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been forced to address the shootings and recent acts of domestic terrorism in the US.
The truth is, there is need for systemic change in the US that promotes higher levels of religious tolerance, racial equality and national unity. The laws there need to be changed to end the protectionism of police and other public servants who continue to take the lives of innocent black men and women because of perceived fears about their culture and intent whenever there is an encounter.
It is therefore necessary for blacks rights activists and politicians to place pressure on those States within the US that continue to use discriminatory and archaic laws to marginalise blacks, Muslims and people of colour in a bid to protect the interests of whites.
All lives matter and at the end of the day, the US must live up to its reputation of being a country which is the land of “opportunities” for all. The framers of its legislative and judicial polices must understand the importance of equity and social justice and its implications on the notions of inclusivity and freedom.
Many other countries will be looking to the US for examples as to how to deal with the recurring issue of racism in this modern age, especially small Caribbean countries like Guyana which have been grappling to put an end to its own problems related to racial divisiveness.
While there is a different brand of racism taking place within this hemisphere, countries like Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago can ill afford to miss the lessons from the American experience as they seek to devise laws and other constitutional remedies that could result in an improvement in the race relations between East Indians, Africans and their Indigenous counterparts.
In conclusion, America cannot afford to return to the period where “strange fruit” was in abundance nor afford to continue the senseless shedding and wastage of the blood of her black citizens. The earth must not be enriched by the blood of humans who are cut down in their prime because of the inaction of others and their refusal to listen to the voices of those who are minorities and being marginalised.

City Hall’s corruption concerns

 

This week, President David Granger called on the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to make strident efforts to become unified as they seek to implement projects and proposals to advance the development of the country’s Capital City.

President Granger underscored the importance of the M&CC working within the ambit and framework of the laws while explaining the need for all decisions taken to translate into a “good life” for citizens there.

He was resolute and clear in his address of the need for Georgetown to pursue a path of urban development and commence the return to a Garden City with picturesque landscape and infrastructure.

Among other things, the Head of State who is the second President to visit City Hall, pledged his commitment and support to the council while reminding it that its re-election will hinge solely on its performance and track record.

While his address to the council was welcomed by many Guyanese at home and abroad because of its timing and relevance, it was also severely criticised by those who understood the politics at the M&CC which has been bedevilled by conflicts, scandals, corruption, racketeering and nepotism over the last three decades.

In fact, President’s Granger’s address could be seen as largely ideological and cosmetic because it did not seek to address frontally the main problems facing the new Council, some of which were inherited from the previous body which existed under the PPP/C.

His address should have focused largely on the need to end the endemic culture of corruption, lack of consultation with citizens on core projects to be undertaken that will affect their livelihoods, the wastage and squandering of public funds through the award of questionable and dubious contracts to shady characters, the continued lack of coordination in the reallocation of vendors, and the urgent need to reorganise the city’s tax and revenue collection base.

If the President had adumbrated Central Government’s position on these issues without dictating how and in what form the Council should act, his remarks would have had more meat than bones.

That aside, there should have been some mention of the need to pursue a forensic audit of City Council’s finances, assets and liabilities so that there could be full disclosure on its states and the mismanagement which occurred under the stewardship of former Mayor Hamilton Green that spanned more than a decade.

This would be an excellent starting point on the road to recovery and good governance that the new Council must journey. It would also for once and for all lay bare all financial irregularities and challenges facing the council.

Some argue too, that any forensic audit should speak to the functionality and undertakings of the Town Clerk’s office which appear to have become heavily politicised in recent times.

Also, President Granger could have used the opportunity to explain the importance and role of minority politics on the council while encouraging healthy debate and full disclosure on issues that are of a public nature without the backstabbing, venom and shade throwing.

It would have also been nice to see the President hold talks with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Georgetown in an effort to ease the tension between the two who have been at loggerheads over several issues since taking office with the most recent being the Parking Meters controversy which has turned out to be an embarrassment to the entire Council.

Such a meeting could be seen as interference but rather a move by the Head of State to practice mature politics by showing that direct dialogue in the presence of an impartial third party could lead to redounding positive outcomes especially with regards to interpersonal relations.

After all, all acts undertaken by the council will somehow affect its citizens and not just the privileged few that sit around the horse shoe table.

The new Council has a far way to go over the next two years in reshaping the municipal politics of Georgetown and redefining its political culture. In the end, any failure on the part of the Council which is not and never has been incidentally controlled by the PPP/C, will be seen as failure on the part of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change coalition.

It is clear now that the “change” citizens who took part in Local Government Elections this year had hoped for remains evasive until a more serious, transparent and prudent approach is taken to development and unity politics.

 

Ratchet City Council politics

The years 2011 and 2015 saw residents of Georgetown and core stakeholders demand a change in the political leadership and directorship of the Georgetown City Council.

This change was demanded in part because of the need to end mass corruption at the council which had reached unimaginable levels since the last council took office back in 1994.

The change was also lobbied for because citizens and the private sector had become weary of the poor levels of service they received from the council despite the fact that they paid their rates and taxes.

Also, support for a change in political culture of the council also increased over the past 20 years because of the lack of progress made in creating a more cohesive and modern capital that could stand on the pillars of social and economic justice, transparency and accountability.

It should be noted that whilst in opposition, the current A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change parties supported this hunger for change in the way business is done at the city council. They mounted a strong campaign against the PPP and in defence of the then Hamilton Green council as they explained that the council was handicapped because of continued ministerial interference, a lack and drought of resources from central Govt to the council and weak political and formative support from the PPP/C.

The coalition also turned City Hall into a battle field taking on the then Town Clerk Carol Sooba who was a Government appointee while undermining her efforts at straightening the council and exposing corruption there. Most times, Sooba was left emotionally wounded and frustrated because even though there were bright spots and several successes during her stint at City Council, the culture of incompetence, political mismanagement and corruption continued as it was now permanently part of the psyche of the council.

As history would have it. Sooba was forced out when the coalition secured Government and long overdue local Government elections were held. New faces and civil-political groups took council seats with a majority joining to the coalition.

Patricia Chase-Green, who served the old council, now became Mayor and Sherod Duncan was placed as Deputy Mayor as if to be a poster boy in order to pander to youths. Royston King, a crass coalition supporter got his lifelong dream and became Town Clerk.

Along with the other councillors, they delivered an unexpected brand of change. This change so far has proven to be ineffective management of the city’s resources, continued corruption, controversial policy positions and an increased polarisation of the Council’s work in favour of coalition businesses and supporters.

This is not the change residents of Georgetown demanded but nobody seems to care at the council or central Govt.

There are alarming reports of new instances of nepotism, corruption and cronyism at the council with large and small contracts being handed to business and political interests in the city in breach of the bylaws and tendering process.

There are reports of misuse of funds at the council by the Town Clerk and other officers in many instances but when the media seek clarifications on these matters, they are met with arrogance and resentment from office holders.

Also, the workers’ lives have not improved and their unions seem incapable of fighting for their rights. Nothing positive has happened at the council despite their efforts at cleaning select parts of the city and the reorganisation of the vendors at Stabroek and Merriman Mall.

In fact, the new council must account for the millions spent on its clean-up drive and other projects since it came to power. An audit that is forensic in nature would expose all of the financial shortcomings of the council and political misdemeanours thus far.

In order for real positive change to occur, the Town Clerk’s office must become de-politicised and obedient to the council. It cannot function as an extension of the APNU/AFC Government nor an arm of King’s personal monarchy.

Additionally, new councillors must have their say and must be allowed to pursue all contracts and agreements entered into in the past and future by the council. No more unnecessary trips abroad and demolition exercises must not take place without full council agreement.

The Central Government must heap criticism on the Council when it is out of place and when the council’s policies appear to be anti-poor, anti-modern and lacking imagination.

All of the hard fought for reforms to Local Government laws and the elections are meaningless unless the ratchet political culture at the Council changes.

 

Im with her

 

This week, Hiliary Clinton made history in the United States of America. She became the first woman to secure the nomination for a major political party to run for the post of President in that country.

Clinton’s success did not come easy and came after a long fight with her party comrade Bernie Sanders at the level of the primaries.

Her triumph also came against the backdrop of an unprecedented wave of attacks on her integrity, trustworthiness and overall political background.

Before clinching the Democratic nomination, Clinton also had to deal with reoccurring scandals associated with her husband’s Presidency and discontent in part with some policy positions she articulated while serving as US Secretary of State and President Barack Obama’s Chief Advisor.

In short, Clinton faced attacks from many organisations and politicians because she was a woman and viewed as weak and subordinate to her male political counterparts, and because of her past perceived transgressions while serving at various levels of Government.

In the end, she emerged victorious and appeared to put all of those criticisms aside for the time being to turn her attention to becoming the US’ first Woman President.

It must be noted that while President Obama’s endorsement of Clinton’s bid to become President is solid, it will not help her secure the votes she needs to block a highly popular Donald Trump from outperforming her in the States that matter in November.

Clinton needs to do more at this point to reach out to Sanders as his full endorsement of her will fully unite the Democrats and keep them in the White House. Sanders has the critical support that Clinton needs and should be made her running mate.

Also, Clinton needs to strengthen her political rhetoric and focus more on explaining her policy positions on key issues that are of concern to the American electorate. These include revamping and expanding key health laws, improving social security, reducing unemployment, strengthening Immigration laws, dealing with measures to boost the country’s sluggish economy and reforming Obamas foreign policy agenda while addressing the interests of America’s private Sector.

So far Clinton has been soft on Trump and her campaign has been weak at painting him as incompetent, and unfit for the Presidency. The current spate of ads need to be reworked to expose the craziness behind Trumpism while constantly reminding Americans that Trump is power drunk and no different from Adolph Hilter in some respects because he believes that Americans especially pure Whites are superior to other races and creeds of people.

She also needs quickly to become more open and transparent with the media making more time to hold press conferences and engagements with the hope of setting their agenda and the public’s agenda by extension.

Clinton has to demonstrate that she has the testicular ability to ramp with Trump and must take some hard shots at him using his own unconventional political dialogue with fully descending into the proverbial trenches.

If she wants to win over the millions of Republicans who are dissatisfied with Trumps nomination then Clinton must also campaign not only as a Democrat but a person who will respect Republicanism and their viewpoint on important issues.

The next few months will prove intriguing and Clinton may burn out if she does not focus herself on image management and appearing more grassroots oriented. She needs to define how her Presidency will differ from Obama and what aspects of his legacy will be happy to continue while going after the youth votes.

These elections this time round while impact the world agenda and the health of US and Middle East Relations, Us and Latin American relations and US and Asian relations.

It will also send a signal to developing and under developed countries about the pysche of the American people and their outlook on domestic as well as international affairs.

For Guyana, these elections are also important because while ruling democrat Governments have been more sympathetic to our needs and challenges, history would show the opposite for many Republican Governments.

We also a large number of Guyanese residing illegally and legally abroad and if Trump wins…his immigration laws could lead to increased levels of deportation and a further decline in remittances and foreign direct investments from the US.

Trump cannot and must not become the next US President. Hiliary must do all that is possible to ensure that his success and winning streak ends in November.

 

The real Pharaohs

 

Last week, former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Executive and House Speaker Ralph Ramkarran described Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo as a “pharaoh”.

Ramkarran said that Jagdeo was a master at politics of abuse as he, among other things, sought to justify and explain the disrespectful and hostile behaviour of some vendors to Jagdeo while he was doing a walkabout recently in Georgetown.

Ramkarran also took several swipes at Jagdeo’s integrity, public conduct and commitment to the founding principles of the PPP while warning that he was selfish and out to achieve personal power at the expense of the Party.

In short, Ramkarran, from his writings and the commentary therein, appeared excited by some of the vendors’ response to Jagdeo as it signalled some sort of premature hope for his already dead political career and presidential ambitions, and success for those behind the current anti-Jagdeo campaign which still lacks imagination and impact.

The truth is, Guyanese and supporters of the PPP have become accustomed to the infantile politics of Ramkarran and other anti-PPP/Jagdeo writers who are continuously seeking to rewrite history for their personal gain, distorting truth and facts while aiming to weaken the PPP because they were rejected by the Party’s principals, who saw their true colours at some point and time in their past.

Ramkarran cannot seriously expect Guyanese to believe that Jagdeo is a pharaoh or still operates like one when compared to those who currently control Guyana’s Executive and sit at the helm of a cosmetic political coalition of convenience.

He does not expect us to believe that Moses Nagamootoo and Khemraj Ramjattan do not live in “opulence” and are not masters at the politics of abuse when one considers their postures and actions; both in Government and within the walls of the declining Alliance For Change party.

The privately owned media in Guyana is replete with examples of just how power drunk and arrogant these two leaders are and have become since 2011.

There are so many other politicians who are deserving of that title because of the little regard they show for half of the electorate, the poor, minority groups and the socially disadvantaged. Ramkarran’s attack on Jagdeo was cheap, weak and without merit. As a learned Attorney, surely he could have mounted more serious analogies and arguments that could convince John Public that Jagdeo was bad for Guyana and bad for the PPP.

Does he expect us to believe that, he while in the PPP, had no influence over his fellow comrades in pointing out just how allegedly wicked Jagdeo was and how pharaoh-like he was becoming? After all, most of the comrades would have been junior to him politically and their minds impressionable as well as loyal to the PPP.

The truth is, the tone of Ramkarran’s recent writings suggest he is bitter and very jealous of the accomplishments of Jagdeo, Clement Rohee and Donald Ramotar – politically and personally.

If he seriously wanted what was best for his former Party, he would have never left. He would have done what Margaret Thatcher did in the 1970s and 1980s. He would have stayed and shake up the Party by causing both a political and ideological revolution within it. He would have put his personal ambitions and self-interest aside and served the Party while seeking to curtail whatever he thought was bad for the PPP or anti-Jagan.

Good leaders do not run from battles and storms, they welcome and embrace them because they test their political resolve and worth as well as purpose.

The history of the PPP from 1954 to 1989 and 1992 to 2016 proves that the Party is always bigger than any one person. Like the senate proved that it was willing to murder Caesar so that Rome could live.

Jagdeo is no pharaoh or Caesar in the PPP. He never was and is not today. Ramkarran knows fully well that Jagdeo has earned his place in the Party and has managed to win the respect and admiration of the Party’s youth corps which indefinitely will determine its future agenda.

The Opposition Leader cannot coerce or control any PPP Executive. He is equal to any other and does not have any special magic to control the free minds in the Party.

Instead of his continuing his obsession with Jagdeo and the PPP, Ramkarran should form his own party or cement his relationship with the one in power to show just how much Guyanese favour him over an alleged “pharaoh” like Jagdeo.

Just like the presidential race within the Party, Ramkarran would be astonished by the results of any such poll as it would no doubt prove who Guyanese favour to lead.

 

The Jubilee bluff

Like most Guyanese, I was elated to learn that the main Opposition, the People’s Progressive Party had decided to accept the Government’s invitation to participate in the main event to mark Guyana’s 50th independence anniversary.

This move signalled the Party’s political maturity and unwavering commitment to country. It also was indicative of the PPP’s decision to support the Government whenever it was doing positive things that could promote social cohesion, national unity and inclusivity.

The Party’s acceptance of the invitation to be part of such a patriotic, historic and momentous event also opened a myriad of opportunities between the two sides to build trust, mutual respect and better relations.

I must admit that I was not truly convinced that their attendance would be without drama or conflict, given the nature of the politics that defines our land, coupled with the Government’s continued disrespect and lack of tolerance for certain personalities in the Executive of the PPP.

I knew something would have either being orchestrated or done to embarrass or shame the Party so that a few diehard anti-PPP politicians and businessmen could have a good laugh at home and abroad.

I am also confident that the PPP MPs who turned up to the event were also aware of this and on guard from the time of their arrival at the event.

As history would have it, drama unfolded when most of the Party’s MPs discovered that their seats had not been reserved and there was no proper arrangement or accommodation made for them.

Also, the explanation offered by the Chief organiser Minister Nicolette Henry for the lack of accommodation is unacceptable, dishonest in certain respects and politically savage.

Whether the PPP MPs were late, absent or used the wrong entrance: their seats should have been reserved. A simple count of invitations issued and seats available would prove that the first exceeded the latter. No one should have been asked to give up their seats.

It was also reasonable for the organiser to expect that the MPs would have wanted to be seated as a group. This is not rocket science.

The MPs had every right to walk out after standing for so long. They had a right to move as a group and in solidarity with each other. How come others were properly accommodated but not those MPs.

The entire incident could have been avoided and the event would have been without incident or political consequence.

The Government missed a good opportunity to treat the Opposition properly and with due respect.

The Minister ought to send the Opposition a personal apology as the incident will no doubt impact their response to other invitations from the Government.

Her first attempt at apologising was insincere and not genuine. There must be no double standards moving forward because the entire social cohesion process depends on mutual respect and good non parliamentary relations.

The good of national unity does not find delight when its partners in Opposition are disrespected or excluded.

 

What Ministers Jordan and Gaskin said

last week, two senior Government Ministers and two executives of the Guyana Private Sector Commission (PSC) were quoted extensively in the media as they offered their positions on the recent economic downturn and decline affecting the local economy and retarding growth of new, emerging and existing sectors.

They all agreed in principle that the economy was not performing as it should, business was slow or sluggish, the lives of Guyanese had not improved significantly over the past two years and there was marked decline in business trade coupled with a decrease in both domestic and foreign direct investment.

But what was astonishing were the reasons proffered by the two Ministers as to why the new Government had not managed to improve the economic fortunes of the country even though it had been in office for over a year.

Also lacking in their explanations was the presentation of a clearly defined marco- or even microeconomic blueprint that explains just how their Government plans on restoring the health of the economy, inspiring investors’ confidence, and denting the levels of economic haplessness, unemployment, rising crime and violence and decreasing standard of living of the populace.

Firstly, Business Minister Dominic Gaskin argued at a PSC function that the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government was still responsible for the state of the economic even though they demitted office since May 2015.

He told business executives at the Marriott Hotel that the decline did not start when the new Government took over even though he appeared to be accepting the popular argumentation that the new office bearers need to stop playing the blame game and get on with the economy.

Gaskin was reported as promising another wave of platitudes and providing the business community with what appeared to be textbook solutions to their real world problems while also offering them an antiquated outlook on business and finance that is rooted in political undertones and promises.

But even his presentation appeared credible when compared to the argumentation put forward by his learned colleague Finance Minister Winston Jordan who no doubt insulted young and old academics with his reasoning as why the economy is not picking up and performing so poorly in comparison to its regional counterparts.

To my surprise, the Minister said the significant decrease in what he referred to as “free spending” was occasioned as a result of “a decrease in illegal activities, including narco trafficking, which had created a parallel economy here”.

He does not stop there but goes on to argue that as they continue to fight this parallel economy, things might get worse and the economy will have to adjust as he assured that Government was putting things in place to cushion the effect of its successes in denting the underground economy.

Surely, Minister Jordan does not expect Guyanese to believe that during the APNU/AFC Government’s 1st year in office they have managed to dent the underground economy or the parallel economy which he had argued like economist Clive Thomas was not entrenched to the legitimate economy.

And he certainly does not expect us to accept his promise that things are being put in place to boost the economy by definitively saying that things he is speaking about. Also he does not expect us to accept the platitudes of the Business Minister and their collective idealistic outlook that we must trust them to deliver a better economy and a good life in the long-term even as they have proven themselves wholly incompetent to do so in the short-term.

The truth is, the new Government has done nothing to dent the underground economy, save jobs, inspire growth in the Private Sector or innovation in the Public Sector over the last year. As a matter of fact, since former President Ramotar took office they did everything to cripple the economy from jeopardising his Government’s legislative and developmental agenda to legitimising excesses against the Executive which many times ended in violence and bloodshed.

Also, the Government’s own posture is telling businesspeople and investors that they are not open for business but rather are opened to do business with certain people for certain gains.

That aside, the witch-hunts, audits, politically motivated and Ministry of the Presidency-directed smear campaigns have only increased since the last elections and businesspeople continue to adapt a wait and see approach. The series of regressive and repressive tax changes recently implemented by Government along with its state-sponsored attacks on people’s private property and businesses continue reaching unimaginable heights.

Unless Government is serious about helping GuySuCo, reversing the closure of Wales and LBI estates, finding markets for rice farmers, revising the 2:00am curfew permanently, removing the spate of bans and repressive taxes, increasing the public servants’ salaries in a meaningful way and dealing with crime by DOING more… most Guyanese will assume that they are busy with the jubilee anniversary and everything else can wait including the health and socioeconomic wellbeing of their citizenry who are crying out for justice as they have endured twelve months of hardship and economic neglect.

 

PPP’s new outlook

This week, a local media house reported that there appears to be some level of uncertainty over who should be the next Presidential Candidate for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) at the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
It also reported that there were heated arguments in the party and major disagreements over a number of issues, including the holding of the party’s next Congress because the current leadership of the party was trying to hold on to power and resist new blood while depriving its members from participating in a democratic process that could shake up the party.
That media house along with another online news entity also wasted no time in making the point that there was great resentment or resistance at all levels of the party to the possibility of Bharrat Jagdeo running again and serving another term were the party to be victorious at those polls.
To the average man who consumes the information as portrayed in certain sections of the media, the PPP has found itself in another crisis and conundrum after losing the 2015 elections.
But those who are politically schooled will look deeper at a number of other variables including the agenda of the media houses that published the related stories, the timing of the information, the source and its creditability, and the level of truth and facts within the body of the news report before arriving at such a conclusion.
They are also likely to look at the general political developments in the country, past trends, the politics of the ruling APNU/AFC Government inclusive of its propaganda machinery and the ensuing challenges facing its politicians.
The truth is, since the return of Jagdeo to the local political scene as Opposition Leader the  PPP has managed to rejuvenate its grassroots bases, restore hope and confidence amongst its members and move in a more systematic as well as coherent way whether in Parliament or outside.
To his credit, Jagdeo has also managed to win the confidence and respect of most if not all of the PPP’s young and not so young politicians as well as Central Executive members.
While it is true that he is often criticised by some older members for the manner in which he articulates his views and pushes for certain reforms within the party, it is also true that at the end of the day, the democratic pillars of the party work and remain intact as almost every decision is taken after discussion, votes and consultation.
Following his return, the party has also been actively championing to do more for the poor, youth and working masses in the country. It has even publicly acknowledged where it failed and could have done more while it was in office which is a departure from the traditional hardcore politics of the PPP.
Also, despite losing power in May last year, the party has managed to challenge the Government on every front, bringing a series of unprecedented litigation and lawsuits where needed through a set of its most learned legal minds with the former Attorney General Anil Nandlall taking centre-stage in this respect.
The PPP appears to have stopped licking its wounds and there is much evidence on the ground to show that its General Secretary Clement Rohee has wasted no time in reading the riot act to party empolyees, organisers and supporters about staying in touch with the masses, following the rules of the party and staying the course.
He and Jagdeo appear to have worked out a formula that would see them, though distinctly different, working in unison to avoid unnecessary fictions, divisions and disharmony while in opposition at the level of the party. The truth is, the PPP Congress if held tomorrow does not have the power alone to change the course of the party and redefine its politics while in opposition.
The PPP Congress can only renew its leadership and witness the creation of a new mandate from its delegates and members.
Contrary to the insinuations of some of the media reports, Jagdeo is likely to come out on top of any polling process in the party. He is immensely popular amongst the party youths and rank and file. Other senior politicians like Rohee, Gail Teixeira, Irfaan Ali, Anil Nandlall and Dr Roger Luncheon are also highly popular within the party base and will not disappear because the party is in opposition.
The truth is, someone in the ruling party had a bright idea and wanted to divert attention from government’s missteps, excesses and failures after one year in office, and tried to tilt the news and publics’ agenda.  They were also no doubt aided by some disgruntled forces within the PPP who seemingly are racing against the tides hoping to achieve status and rank without putting in the work, years and personal sacrifice.
The PPP after a long time appears to be breathing some fresh air even though the old faces in its leadership remain the same.
The party must therefore resist any temptation to air its disagreements in the public or media. It also must resist strongly the move by sections of the media to set and define its agenda, who should be eligible to become its next presidential candidate and when or whether it should hold its Congress this year. Those are matters for the party’s leadership to decide on as a collective.
All the leaders in the PPP must put their egos and ambitions aside and rally behind Jagdeo and Rohee while in opposition. Until 2020, the emphasis should be on repairing the party’s political machinery, recruiting workers, reconnecting with lost supporters, improving its political appeal to voters and strengthening its PYO.
The PNCs failure was that it allowed the media and its political dictators to shape its destiny. During the early 1990s it also failed to stand as a united front while in opposition and again allowed the media to seek out factions and set them against each other so that more newspapers could be sold and newscast rating increased.
The media also by its reportage of events also reduced the appeals of Janet Jagan and Desmond Hoyte at different periods in our history.
The PPP must understand it will only survive being in opposition when it learns how to set the media’s agenda without attacking its integrity and freedom.