Opposition’s collateral damage unacceptable
The move by the opposition to trim fat from the proposed budget and hold the government more accountable is laudable but it should not be at the expense of people’s bread and butter. The latter is exactly what has happened in the final passage of the budget – many would be on the roti and soup line. The affected does not want to hear, “We are sorry; your getting fired was not our intention; it is collateral damage”.
They want to retain their job and hear they will get raises so they can enjoy a fair standard of living similar to what Ramjattan, Granger and other members of parliament are experiencing. The move by the opposition to put people out of work (collateral damage) is a disappointment from those who should have known better. This action must be condemned as unacceptable.
The adoption of the budget should have been guided by the principle of inclusivity and national consensus and not just be controlled by the two opposition parties that control the majority in parliament. The opposition cannot simply leave out the PPP from the being at the table. In so acting, they have shown they are no different from the PPP that dominated parliament between 1992 and 2011.
President Donald Ramotar is a reasonable man. He stated at the outset that he would be willing to work with the opposition to make life better for all. Donald gave in to several opposition proposals and said that he thought he had reached a consensus. But the opposition appears unwilling to give in to key requests from Donald or back tracked.
The opposition should have given Donald a chance on this being his first budget and if he had failed to adhere to their concerns, they could have rebuked him by disallowing his next request. Also, with their controlling majority, the opposition could have held the government accountable for their expenditures monitoring how money is spent.
Instead, the AFC and PNC (APNU) went all out to teach Donald a lesson; teach him who is really boss; telling him to go down to his knees and beg. Such action does not advance the politics of our divided nation. It is politically immature.
What is happening in the opposition is a mutual fear between the AFC and PNC that each would make voter gains at the expense of the other. So they are playing politics with one another and the workers have become collateral victims as Ramjattan put it. PNC has nothing to worry about its support as it has consolidated its base. It is the AFC that has to worry as most of its supporters are defectors from the PPP.
In the end, the PPP may take AFC votes if the AFC is perceived as a nuisance and a hindrance to progress and if the AFC is seen as not pursuing policies that would benefit its supporters or if it is seen as a partner of the PNC. And right now PNC and AFC are seen as one by angry workers.
People voted for the AFC expecting it to be different from the others. Instead, AFC is pursuing vengeful politics with former PPP stalwarts wanting to get back at the PPP leadership who ill-treated them. While it is understandable that those former hard working PPP stalwarts (and they – Khemraj, Moses, Sasenarine, Lionel, etc. ‑- are brilliant minds) who are now with AFC want to avenge their past abuses, they should show political maturity and not take extreme measure to contribute to collateral damage. They should show that they are bigger than those in the PPP who sidelined them. They should side (conditionally) with Donald and help to bring change within the PPP while being outside of it. Reconciliation is the only way forward.
The AFC will not benefit politically from their actions in teaming up with the PNC to hurt workers. So far, every major budgetary action of the AFC far has backfired – public service workers came out against them and the PNC (APNU). And now media workers have come out against them for eliminating funds for the state media.
In their hate for and policies to get back at the PPP, they are perceived as not concerned about those who are hurt from their actions. The AFC has to be careful it is not labeled as a proverbial bully. It will suffer serious consequences.
The threatened workers are innocent victims of the power play in parliament. Ramjattan has erred in saying collateral damage is to be expected. The party itself would eventually become a victim of the collateral damage of its own bombing campaign if does not show moderation in its behavior and if it does not support worthwhile proposals from Donald.