ISSUES VS. PERSONALITIES
During the election campaign, the Alliance for Change (AFC) made some very useful policy proposals. But no sooner were the elections completed and the AFC confirmed in the position of holding the balance of power between APNU and the PPP/C, its politics descended into one of political retribution, bitterness and vindictiveness.
The AFC has unfortunately developed a proclivity to concentrate its efforts at going after key individuals within the State rather than promoting its agenda of change and reform.
This pattern became clearer during the Budget debates, when it sought to flex its political muscles. It initially, and quite inexplicably, proposed billions in cuts to the Ministries of Housing and Water and Culture, Youth and Sport, a threat that it was unable to carry out, because APNU did not support it following workers taking to the streets.
Later, it targeted alleged “fat cats” working in advisory positions within the governmental structure, without making any proposals about pruning other areas of fat and wastage or of tagging government spending to institutional reform in other areas such as the security sector.
After the Budget cuts, it knew that the government could still invest using funds from NICIL. As such it began to target this institution.
When the head of NICIL challenged them to a debate about the performance of the entity under his watch, the AFC said it was not interested in a debate with him; it wanted to interrogate him in the Public Accounts Committee.
And when in the face of its claims that NICIL was sitting on billions, it was invited to a televised debate about NICIL, it opted out of the opportunity to show that it can deal with issues rather than just personalities.
It also became clear after the elections that the AFC was keen to inflict cuts to the pension package of the former President. This again was a sign that the party had become too preoccupied with the personalities.
In the end, it could do nothing about the pension, because the constitution provides safeguards against deprivation of property and therefore it has settled for capping rather than cutting the benefits. But no capping has yet taken place.
It also took the opportunity, after an allegation of rape was made against the former Commissioner of Police, to go after that individual. After charges were recommended by the DPP, the former Commissioner approached the courts for judicial review and was granted a reprieve since the court questioned the recommendations.
Despite this, the AFC kept up its rabble-calling for the removal of the Commissioner of Police, insisting that he be sanctioned for inappropriate conduct. By it was obvious where the AFC’s priorities lay.
No sooner did the Commissioner resign, all the talk about pursuing the rape allegations until justice was served ended. All along it was the Commissioner’s head that it wanted. Nothing is being heard anymore about the rape allegation.
Fast forward to the present impasse over Linden. The AFC is now demanding the resignation of the Minister of Home Affairs.
This again illustrates that the AFC is more interested in going after individuals than dealing with the issues concerned.
There is an agreement for a Commission of Inquiry. The Commission of Inquiry is intended to examine what went wrong. Instead of waiting for the report to come out and therefore having a better understanding of the circumstances that led to the incident on the Wismar Bridge, it is prematurely demanding that the minister be held politically responsible. It is calling for his resignation.
Strangely though, the AFC, while demanding that the policemen responsible for shooting, be charged, has not made a single call for anyone in the chain of command of the Guyana Police Force to resign. It has not called for the Commissioner of Police to resign. But it has called for the Minister of Home Affairs to be removed.
This is the nature of personality politics and is symptomatic of a much deeper malaise that afflicts the AFC.
The AFC has reached this stage because it is focusing almost exclusively on individuals and not policies. It has drifted away from issue-based politics. Were it concentrating on the issues and not at trying to get at personalities, it would have far greater credibility and would not find itself in the situation that it recently found itself in when it tried to argue that the PPP misled the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
This preoccupation with personality politics is also a reflection of the AFC abandoning its role as an arbiter between the PPP/C and APNU.
Instead, it has become infatuated with its own delusions of power and has become bogged down in power politics, opting to use the present dispensation to demonstrate its legislative clout and the ends to which this can be put.
This is a misguided approach as it is careening the party into a dangerous gambit which can see the assembly being used to try to exercise executive functions, something that is going to be stoutly resisted.