Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Government convulsions continue

The AFC and the GAP-ROAR Parliamentary parties on Thursday, March 27, 2008 took a decision to refrain from participating in the debate on a Motion brought by the Government ostensibly to endorse and give life to the Stakeholders Engagement which ensued over a period of several days at the Office of The President.

We note that since January 26 to today’s date there has been no significant development leading to the capturing and dismantling of the criminal gang or gangs that have been responsible for the Agricola, Lusignan, and Bartica massacres, and for the murders of journalist Ronald Waddell and Minister Satyadeo Sawh. Despite the calm that we enjoy today we, like every other Guyanese believe that this is the calm before the storm and therefore no effort should be spared to address the security and governance concerns which are afflicting the stability and viability of the state. The spawning of gangs that lay siege to towns and communities must be seen as posing a threat to both national security and the political order. The solution therefore has to be multifaceted if it is to be successful.

In was against this backdrop that we approached the Stakeholders’ meetings which were chaired by the President. We indicated before, during, and after those meetings that the coming together of all stakeholders was a necessary first step to addressing the terror that was stalking the land and the challenges that this posed to governance. We expected therefore that the engagements would be treated seriously, comprehensively, and be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding of each others concerns and indeed the nation’s desires.

Many wholesome recommendations have been made by stakeholders coming from both the political and civil society components and it was our understanding, and that of most others with whom we have conferred, that the agreements reached presumably in good faith at the Office of the President were the beginning of a series of engagements which would lead to the substantial reform. In fact, even the Office of the President hailed the outcome as being historic and awesome which would pave the way for a new dispensation in Guyana.

When therefore we were given copies of the Motion submitted by the Prime Minister and asked to submit amendments we did so with the belief that such a historic outcome should be given expression in a Motion that truly reflected not only what was agreed initially, but also what hopes and expectations we all had for the way forward. More importantly, such a Motion should be reinforced by Resolutions which would crystallize our united condemnation of crime; recognize our individual and collective responsibilities towards establishing a united, peaceful and prosperous state in which all citizens feel duly represented in the decision making process; and give birth to the era of cooperation and inclusively that has eluded and had been denied us for the past decades.

The Prime Minister’s Motion had two accompanying resolve clauses which with all due respect to him, fell far below the minimum expectations of the stakeholders. These were:

  1. That the National Assembly takes note of those engagements and accepts the output as reflecting consensus on the agreed upon actions; and
  2. That the national Assembly in accepting that the national consensus was arrived at during those meetings with the President and the Stakeholders undertakes to provide its fullest support and to assign its highest priority in implementing commitments that called for action by Parliamentary bodies.

Our suggested amendments to the Motion were therefore few, but nonetheless consistent with the spirit of the “Bourda Accord” and for the benefit of all, these included:

  1. That a reference be made to Article 13 of the Constitution which enjoins all stakeholders to work towards the establishment of an “inclusive democracy” in which every citizen will be guaranteed a say on the decision-making process;
  2. That all parliamentary parties be given equitable access to the State media being the Guyana Chronicle and NCN to present their views and opinions;
  3. That Freedom of Information legislation is supported and enacted by all; and
  4. That the National Assembly accepts that an appropriate mechanism must be found to deepen and strengthen the Stakeholders process and to pursue all the recommendations made including the need for a holistic approach to crime solving by addressing the root causes of criminal and political violence, and other governance issues.

Bearing in mind we had the previous day assigned Opposition’s business calling for an investigation into GPL, the establishment of a Law Reform Commission, and the limiting of the ability of the Government to grant debt right-offs, were unceremoniously and selfishly dispatched by the Government, we all believed that the Government would at least appreciate the sensitivity of the moment and the political expediency of maintaining an atmosphere of compromise and cooperation in a parliamentary democracy such as ours by agreeing to all or some of our suggested amendments.

It goes without saying that the unanimous support of all the parliamentary parties was required for a Motion such as this and to that extent therefore the views of the parties must be included as long as the spirit and intent of the Stakeholders Engagement was not violated. Unfortunately, the Government had a different opinion and gave the parties a fait accompli as if to say it is our way and no other way.

We cannot accept this; and therefore had to demonstrate our displeasure and disgust.

In those unhelpful and uncompromising circumstances the AFC and GAP-ROAR did not see the need for any further participation in last Thursday’s Parliamentary session in view of the stubborn and unreasonable stance of the PPP/C Government in not supporting the amendments to the Prime Minister’s Motion on the Stakeholders’ Agreement tabled by GAP/ROAR Member, Everall Franklin.

Mr. Franklin’s amendments are wholly in keeping with the letter, spirit and intendment of the entire Stakeholders’ Agreement which was recently signed onto at the Office of the President.

Our parties stand firmly to that Agreement and expect implementation of the specific terms and all consequential matters as early as possible, and remains ready and willing to proceed on the bases of sincerity, trust, and respect.

By not supporting these amendments which sought to strengthen the Stakeholders’ Agreement, the government is showing a naked contempt for the parliamentary process and the stakeholders. By doing so they displayed a continuing attitude and approach of not giving any quarter to the Opposition’s proposals in and out of the National Assembly. This was flagrantly demonstrated on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 when it refused to show any semblance of compromise towards the Motions presented by the Opposition on the GPL, the Law Reform Commission and the capping at ten million dollars the sum the Minister of Finance can forgive an obligation owed to the State.

The AFC and GAP-ROAR felt that to have proceeded with that charade would have meant the endorsement and perpetuation of the disregard and disrespect growing against the Parliament of Guyana among our supporters; but more significantly, it would have been to denigrate the expectation reposed by the Guyanese people in the Stakeholders’ Agreement, the terms of which, if implemented will go a far way in allaying the security fears of the public.

The act of bringing the Motion into the National Assembly in the uncompromising manner, in which the PPP/C Government did, is just political grand-standing with the purpose of scoring cheap political points and fancy headlines.

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