I have been an activist on behalf of Guyanese political and social causes for more than 40-years. I once walked from Supenaam to Charity in company of David Ramlakhan and Jairam Karan (President and General Secretary of RPA, respectively) to collect signatures for a petition to president Burnham pleading for an increase in rice prices paid to farmers. The year was 1970.
That summer at Anna Regina I also attended the PPP Congress. A memorable event occurred. Lall Bahadur, a delegate from the Corentyne Coast, had been listening to BBC world news, heard that Salvador Allende had won the elections in Chile and went straight to the microphone and interrupted the proceedings to announce the good news. The Congress – more than 2,000 delegates – broke into a ten-minute round of applause. The Congress by show of hands approved the immediate dispatch of a congratulatory telegram to president-elect Allende.
In New York I attended scores of protests – leaflets and placards – outside the Guyana Consulate and United Nations building to protest the stolen elections staged by Forbes Burnham. The Years were 1973 through 1992. I also visited twice in 1990-91 with Officials of the U.S. State Dept in Washington D.C. to present petitions and plead for U.S. government support for the Cause of Free and Fair Elections. I was also a lead organizer for a FAST and VIGIL outside the U.N. building in New York in May 1990 to call world attention to the lack of democracy in Guyana.
Am I PPP? PNC? AFC? I am not into party politics. That does not prevent me from denouncing the ruling PPP for its corrupt rule, as I also did the PNC dictatorship. I am more interested in seeing a stable and genuine multi-racial democracy emerge in Guyana.
So this swearing-in of president Ramotar (I just saw it live on Tanuja Raghoo’s show on a New York TV station): Does this represent democracy? Is this real democracy?
Guyana’s system of electing its parliament and its president is called Proportional Representation – seats are apportioned on the basis of votes. Aggregate votes determine everything. (United States is different – a president could be elected on the basis of a minority of votes. You barely win a state but you get all the electoral seats of that state. Same system in Trinidad).
So how then could PPP’s Donald Ramotar be sworn-in as the president on the basis of winning only 48.6 percent of the votes? (His party also does not have the majority of seats – PPP 32; Combined Opposition 33).
This is a constitutional conundrum. I doubt whether any Constitutional scholar can explain this.
Some practical considerations:
(1) Can president Ramotar pass any legislation? (Bear in mind, in Guyana – by law and practice parliamentarians vote straight party line). Ramotar cannot entice or buy off individual opposition members. That would be illegal.
(2) Ramotar would have to negotiate directly with the leaders of the Opposition parties – and if a deal is struck he gets the support of all the members of that group. So here is a very practical question: Why not form a coalition government with one or the other of the Opposition parties before you assume the Office of the Presidency? Of course this entails reaching some formal and informal agreements in policies, legislative programs and platforms with that party group.
I say Ramotar should not be sworn-in as president until he wins the support of one or the other of the Opposition parties. Swearing in Ramotar at this stage is the equivalent of putting the cart before the horse.
Watching this swearing-in ceremony of Ramotar to the presidency convinces me this is all a charade. It is a waste of time. It is impossible to run a government on a minority of seats.
Advice to Mr. Ramotar: If you really intend to negotiate in good faith and win parliamentary support of an Opposition group, do it before, not after you are sworn-in. Doing it after is the ultimate disrespect and show of bad faith. No Opposition leader would be that naïve to throw their group support to your already formed and announced government after being so insulted.
A very instructive model was played out in Britain a year ago. No party got a clear majority. All three parties negotiated with one another to find a suitable coalition partner, a proper fit as they say. All this was done before swearing-in and formation of the government. This is how parties in a parliamentary democracy, in the event of anyone failing to get a 51 percent majority of the seats, go about to find a partner to form a coalition government.
What I saw played out on Tanuja Raghoo’s TV show in New York today is the ultimate chutzpah, insult and disrespect shown for the Opposition parties: A president being sworn-in and he has no idea how he will get a majority in parliament to run the government. Any primer on parliamentary democracy will tell you the government will collapse in a matter of weeks – in the first attempt at a confidence vote – if you do not have majority support in parliament.
I am fully cognizant of what is happening in Guyana. Donald Ramotar and the PPP are trying to exploit a fiddled constitution for all its advantages.
This constitution specifically says the party with the largest plurality of votes gets the presidency. So you seize the presidency. Now as a practical matter, can your government sustain itself and survive without the support of another parliamentary group? Of course not.
You see, despite that fix or fiddled clause placed in the constitution by a power hungry dictator, as a practical matter, there is no way getting around or avoiding the formal processes of forming a coalition government.
Nov 12, 2019By Sean Devers in Trinidad Last night at the Queen’s Park Oval Chris Barnwell’s eighth half century and Man-of-the-Match Raymon Reifer’s second five-wicket haul in 50-over cricket led Guyana...
Nov 12, 2019
Nov 12, 2019
Nov 12, 2019
Nov 12, 2019
Nov 12, 2019
I have spent all my life reading and studying politics. I am finely educated to understand how societies function but I... more
The claim of a 75% increases in public service pay over the past four years is yet another of the ingenious claims of the... more
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]