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The politics of Guyana's 'no-confidence' politics

ANALYSIS

Rickey Singh

Sunday, July 29, 2012    

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IT may come as a surprise to Jamaicans, Trinidadians and Barbadians grappling with their own domestic socio-economic and political challenges that the parliamentary Opposition in Guyana is debating a "no confidence" motion against the country's minister of home affairs, Clement Rohee, rather than one with a wider national dimension at a time of claimed "crisis".

Last Wednesday, the 65-member National Assembly, where the combined Opposition — A Partnership for National Unity (APNU with 26 seats, and Alliance for Change seven) — control a one-seat majority against the governing People's Progressive Party's 32 representatives, started debate on the no-confidence motion against Minister Rohee.

The motion, which was approved for debate by the Speaker (Raphael Trotman, who is leader of the AFC), without normal official notification and established parliamentary procedures, was deemed by the governing party's Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, as "dangerous" in the precedent it had created.

Standing in the name of APNU chairman and Opposition Leader Brigadier David Granger (retired) of the Guyana Defence Force, the no-confidence motion was triggered by the shooting deaths of three demonstrators by the police and injuries suffered by a dozen others last Tuesday in the bauxite mining town of Linden. It is a stronghold of the People's National Congress (PNC), the dominant party in the APNU.

The tragedies, resulting from violent clashes between the police and organised protesters rallying against a phased period for implementing new electricity rates, were to be followed by acts of widespread looting, arson, robberies and sheer thuggery over two days.

Independent probe

Both the Government and Opposition grappled to reach consensus on an independent probe with an international component, with August 2 identified as the date to finalise the terms of reference.

Not only had both Minister Rohee and Opposition Leader Granger separately called for the removal from Linden of the police commander in charge, but Police Commissioner Leroy Brummel had stressed that no political instructions had been given to the force.

President Donald Ramotar, who is general secretary and de facto leader of the PPP, and representatives of both the APNU and AFC had already discussed the establishment of the commission of inquiry, with August 2 identified for settlement of the terms of reference.

The police commissioner had also warned against the rush to judgement ahead of the coming independent probe.

Further, the Government had announced, prior to the debate in Parliament, its decision to put on hold the proposed new electricity rates for Linden and disclosed new initiatives, discussed with Linden stakeholders and others, for economic development in Region 10 where the mining town is located.

The question of relevance, therefore, is that given the strategic geographical location of Linden for transportation and economic activities between the interior region and the capital, Georgetown and wider coastal areas, why did the Opposition opt for the narrow focus in its demand for Rohee's resignation?

Further, although representatives of major stakeholders, including the private sector, have been pointing to threatened social and economic consequences, not only for Linden but the nation in general, the APNU's Granger chose to settle for the unwinnable target — Rohee must be ditched from the Cabinet.

He would not have been unaware of the constitutional hurdle to be overcome; or that the attorney general and minister of legal affairs, Anil Nandall, had already contended that the politics behind the no-confidence motion was a non-starter for presidential compliance.

PNC leadership duel

Perhaps there is a factor that readers in this and other Caricom states should know about the politics that inspired calls for Minister Rohee's resignation.

And APNU's Granger is at the centre of it all, including intense lobbying efforts to be elected today as new leader of the PNC, the dominant partner in the APNU.

Should he succeed — as expected — in defeating his primary challenger, Carl Greenidge (a former finance minister), Granger would then be wearing three political hats: opposition leader in Parliament, APNU chairman, and now the big prize, leader of the PNC — the party founded and built by the late Forbes Burnham.

With such an awareness of Guyana's domestic party politicking, citizens of Caricom states may perhaps better appreciate Granger's haste to spring his no-confidence motion against Rohee on Wednesday — with the co-operation of APNU's parliamentary partner, AFC — only to put that debate on hold until tomorrow — a day after the PNC's delegates congress.

In the meanwhile, Guyana's major stakeholders — irrespective of political orientation or persuasion — keep worrying over the negative social and economic consequences for this Caricom state that had finally overcome the burden of being a highly indebted poor country of the Caribbean over many years, to now be recording, for four consecutive years, an enviable five per cent annual growth rate.

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