Guyanese are masters of making excuses. Whatever their failings, it is often impossible for a Guyanese to admit that they lost, were ill-prepared, or that their opponent was better.
One time a Guyanese was soundly beaten in a boxing match and when asked the reason for failing, the fighter complained that it was the food that was provided.
It is hard to beat a Guyanese when it comes to excuses. And judging from the reasons which have been provided by the opposition for slashing the 2012 Budget, that reputation is not in any trouble of being lost.
The opposition seems to have a bag into which they can freely dip to come up with excuses to justify the cuts to the 2012 Budget. First, it was about ‘fat cats’ and trimming excessive spending. Then it was about restraining executive lawlessness. Then it was about the failure of the government to be flexible.
When that was debunked, the excuse came about that the cuts were really about exercising leverage, about showing who is the boss. Later, it was because the government said “heh” (take this) and the opposition responded with “heh back”. By next week, it will be about saving Guyana from communism.
The excuses are coming fast and furious.
What we have is an opposition that really is unsure, even about its own motives. It is acting out of instinct, and the budget cuts seem driven by an instinct to punish the government.
What the opposition is showing is not just their true colours. What they are showing is their inability to understand their roles as parliamentarians. What they are demonstrating to us is that they can use their razor-slim majority not just to impose austerities on workers, but also what is possible should they ever be handed executive power in Guyana.
Instead of using their majority to establish that they can be trusted with executive power, the opposition is doing the exact opposite. They have shown that they do not understand their role, the budget process, and that they have no proper answers to the country’s problems.
Opposition politics in the new parliament should not be about getting even. It should not be about bitchy politics. The opposition has to show it is above these things; that it can rise above these base instincts and not become stuck in the politics of reprisal.
Its next stop is reportedly to reduce the benefits given to former presidents. But the real objective seems to be the package of benefits offered to President Bharrat Jagdeo.
The opposition, however, seems to be overlooking certain things. For one, there is nothing special about these benefits compared with what former presidents receive in other countries. The pension paid to former presidents under the new law is a fraction of their salary at the time they left office. It is not a new salary. And it is not in the case of Bharrat Jagdeo, three million dollars, as is so mischievously peddled in sections of the media.
There are other benefits which the opposition may be placing a dollar figure to, but since their math is suspect; one has to be careful with the figure they arrive at.
Any self- respecting nation should take care of its former presidents. If you cannot, you do not deserve any respect internationally.
It must also be recalled that when the Bill was passed to legislate those benefits, there was also a revision of the benefits to the Leader of the Opposition. So are the opposition parties going to also slash the benefits paid to the Leader of the Opposition?
We are hearing a lot about the benefits to former presidents, but nothing about the benefits paid to the office of the leader of the opposition.
If both offices received increased benefits around the same time, why slash one and not the other? How come the office of the leader of the opposition can be entitled to certain benefits, including gardener and maid, and yet those very benefits are likely to be cut if the opposition has their way when it come to the former presidents?
The truth is that the opposition parties with their one-seat majority cannot touch the benefits paid to former president Bharrat Jagdeo. Those benefits are enshrined in law and created a legitimate expectation in respect to property for the former president. No new law can be applied retroactively to slash the guarantees offered under a previous law.
What this means is that any changes to the law dealing with benefits for retired presidents is going to affect future presidents and not President Jagdeo, who cannot be denied what has already been approved, since this would be tantamount to deprivation of property, which is prohibited under the constitution.
Furthermore, the opposition is free to pass whatever motion or law they please. However, once it is not assented to by the president, it has no legal effect.
All the opposition is showing by this desire to overturn the benefits for the former president is that it is capable of gutter politics, because that is all the proposal to amend the benefits of the former president is. It is gutter politics.
Which one you want?
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