The President must back up his calls for cooperation and compromise
The phrase, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to his own facts,” aptly applies to Mr. Ralph Seeram, author of the diaspora piece in the January 20 edition of KN, “Insecure Guyanese men…,” which focused in part on House Speaker, Mr. Raphael Trotman, and which focus I wish to address.
Mr. Seeram asked whether the Speaker is insecure because it seems as if he has to appease the opposition at every turn. Did Mr. Seeram miss the huge debate between the PPP and parliamentary opposition over the Speakership post, in which the PPP proposed Mr. Ralph Ramkarran and the parliamentary opposition settled on Mr. Trotman after Mr. Moses Nagamootoo was rejected?
Speaker Trotman owes his Speakership post to the opposition in much the same way former Speaker Ramkarran owed his Speakership post in the past to the PPP when it had a parliamentary majority. So why is there even a question about Speaker Trotman siding with the parliamentary majority?
The truth is that Speaker Ramkarran has been far more amenable to the PPP regime’s parliamentary agenda than he was to the PNC and later the AFC, and if he wasn’t, then his position as Speaker would not have remained as secure. Has Mr. Seeram ever thought of that?
It was Speaker Ramkarran who once said in a “Special Person” interview with Kaieteur News on June 18, 2009, that “Because I have a leadership position in the PPP, the challenge as Speaker of the National Assembly is ensuring that all sides develop and maintain confidence in my management of the business of the House and that all parties are given a fair shake. Judging from the fact that both sides of the House are at times unhappy with me, I believe I am succeeding.”
With only one year as Speaker, Mr. Trotman’s job has been made very difficult by the PPP regime rushing to the courts about four times to seek relief from the parliamentary opposition’s votes on various items and issues to frustrate the parliamentary democracy process. I am sure he wants to be fair to both the government and opposition in Parliament, but he also shares the opposition’s agenda to restore good governance.
Heck, Mr. Trotman has been fighting for government reform while in the PNC, and when that was not a fast-track item for the PNC, he teamed up with Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan and Ms. Sheila Holder to launch the AFC in 2005.
But what specifically caused Mr. Seeram to say he suspects the Speaker is insecure in his post is that the Speaker allowed the parliamentary opposition to vote a no-confidence motion against Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Clement Rohee, for failing to perform in his cabinet post, followed by a gag order.
Someone needs to inform Mr. Seeram that this is part of what parliamentary democracy is all about; it is just that for decades we never had a Parliament that was controlled by opposition parties so we never had no-confidence votes, sanctions or gagging orders.
His ignorance of how a parliamentary democracy operates is no excuse or reason for him to jump head first into an empty pool; because if Speaker Trotman found credible reasons to believe the High Court was intruding into Parliamentary matters, then it could definitely threaten the concept of parliamentary democracy. And this is not limited to Guyana, but any nation that subscribes to the parliamentary democracy system.
Thankfully, the Chief Justice’s opinion-based ruling shows that Speaker Trotman does not have to worry about such an intrusion, since the court recognizes Parliament is one of three autonomous bodies that comprise the separation of powers doctrine, and so the court cannot force the Speaker to let Minister Rohee speak in Parliament.
As for Mr. Seeram accusing Speaker Trotman of lacking impartiality, feeling insecure or seeking power and control in the Rohee gag saga simply because the Speaker was once a member of the PNC/APNU and AFC, is to engage in politically juvenile reasoning.
Did Mr. Seeram ever offer a publicized view when the PPP-controlled Parliament refused to allow a probe into the Roger Khan drugs and extra-judicial killings, or to pass legislation that retroactively corrected an illegality pertaining to government awarding of tax concession to Queens Atlantic II, or to refuse to investigate the government’s role in the collapse of CLICO (Guy) that costs depositors US$34M?
Mr. Editor, as we advance into this new year, I wish to urge Guyanese to continue to adjust to this new political dispensation in which Parliament is controlled by the opposition APNU and AFC and demand the people’s business gets done. The President must back up his calls for cooperation and compromise by working with the opposition, whose aim is not to seek power through any back door, but to help restore good governance.
The PPP loves to brag that it restored democracy in 1992, but what happened on November 28, 2011 with the combined opposition obtaining a one-seat parliamentary majority over the PPP was all about voters saying they want a restoration of accountability, transparency and responsibility. Free elections without accountability, transparency and responsibility are a recipe for what we had under Bharrat Jagdeo: pervasive corruption!
By the way, has Mr. Seeram noticed how many hitherto unknown facts and figures associated with state projects and deals have been unearthed since APNU and the AFC took control of Parliament? If anyone is feeling insecure right now it must be the corrupt cabal!
Finally, in answer to Mr. Seeram’s question as to whether the Speaker will resign if the government says it does not have confidence in him, let me offer my opinion: the government does not have the votes in Parliament to back up that position, so the decision to resign will then be the Speaker’s to make. Otherwise, the government will just have to bear with Speaker Trotman, the way the opposition bore with Speaker Ramkarran from 2001 to 2011.