Breaking ranks and sticking together: The dance of the Opposition parties in Guyana
There was a deal between the government and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) that old age pensions would be increased in return for APNU’s support for the increase in electricity tariffs in Linden.
This is according to the former Speaker of the National Assembly writing in the Mirror newspaper of April 27, 2012, one day after the infamous Budget cuts instituted by the combined opposition.
There is no reason to question what Mr. Ralph Ramkarran said because this was also the impression that emanated from reports in the media about the negotiations which were taking place between APNU and the government just prior to it joining with the AFC to inflict the most savage onslaught on the working class since the retrenchment of the 1980’s
Presuming there was an agreement between the government and APNU, it may seem to the casual observer that APNU turned three hundred and sixty degrees when it came to its position on the electricity rates for Linden. In fact, during APNU’s presentations on the Budget debate, it was difficult to recall it making an outright rejection of electricity tariffs which is the position that is now being taken by some of its bigwigs in Linden.
The position now being taken by prominent persons associated with APNU in Linden is that the bauxite town cannot pay any increase.
Well If Linden is so badly off that it cannot afford to pay even a small increase in electricity tariffs after virtually enjoying a give-away bargain for years, then the rest of Guyana should demand a refund from the GPL for the higher tariffs that they have had to pay all these years without the knowledge of what Lindeners were paying.
APNU’s flip-flop should however not be surprising. Anyone vaguely familiar with the political history of Guyana will appreciate that this twisting and turning is a characteristic feature of Guyanese political parties. The greatest irony of our history is that the very party that led us into independence actually at one stage opposed independence.
The fact of the matter is that there was twisting and turning from the very opening of parliament. First there was the insistence that one of APNU’s candidates become the speaker and a clear decision by that partnership not to entertain the nomination of one of the leaders of the AFC on the grounds of his previous high-ranking association with the PPP.
In the end, APNU settled for another AFC leader who was not expected to be part of his party’s presence in the new parliament. This is Guyanese politics for you and more will come.
During one of the earlier sittings of parliament, APNU and the AFC put down some of the line items in supplementary financial papers tabled by the government. When the government protested the grounds upon which the papers and some of the line items were rejected, AFC broke ranks with APNU and supported the passage of the financial papers.
There however remained the issue of those items which were voted down and it was expected that when these were resubmitted, the AFC would have maintained its position and supported passage. This however was not to happen as both the AFC and APNU said nothing during the debate on the financial paper intended to cater for the replenishment of the Contingency Fund. The paper was not approved.
The AFC therefore seems to be back in tandem with APNU. While they eventually supported cuts in the Budget to the tune of over twenty billion dollars of which $18.5 billion was in respect to the LCDS, if the AFC had its way the cuts would have been more severe and its effects on workers would have been devastating.
Based on what was said to be advice it was receiving, the AFC wanted to cut some $3.6 billion, including cuts to the budget of the Ministry of Housing and Water and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
Fortunately, public workers took to the streets and APNU smartly broke ranks and jettisoned this unbelievable proposal by the AFC which would have placed hundreds more on the breadline, crippled the Sports Ministry and see the closure of many of the facilities that it administers. If these cuts had gone ahead, workers in Guyana would have had to hold their bellies and bawl.
The two opposition parties later came together in what is now being described as a political drone strike against the working class of Guyana by cutting line items that have already seen the staff of the Ethnic Relations Commission being sent home and possibly others to follow from other agencies affected by the cuts.
As with any drone strike, there was collateral damage in the form of the sending off of workers. When asked about the workers, the reaction from the AFC was that it had no regrets about what was done.
What a thing to say about innocent workers who now have to find a way of putting meals on the table and finding the money to send their children to school for the next two weeks. With the reopening of school in September where are these workers going to find money to purchase uniforms for their children?
In the meantime, it is likely that parliament will go into its August recess. When this happens some of the very opposition parliamentarians that voted for Budget cuts will be using part of the recess period to go overseas on vacation. They should use that time to reflect on how lucky they are to afford such luxuries while the staff members of the ERC have to worry whether they will afford the bus fare to go to the market.