I am of the well-founded opinion that the much touted No Confidence Motion being contemplated by Guyana’s Parliament against the Donald Ramotar administration is actually an indictment of the President, whose own track record of providing sterling leadership has not been good.
Not only did his party lose its parliamentary majority for the first time, while he was party boss, but the loss occurred while he was also heading the party’s presidential ticket in 2011.That was the first sign of a public no-confidence vote against Mr. Ramotar.
While party boss, he simultaneously served as a member of GuySuCo’s Board of Directors during the years when highly questionable decisions- from the US$200m Skeldon debacle to multiple strikes called by the PPP-backed GAWU- were made that had a negative impact on the corporation’s fortunes.
It also did not help that the party’s union, GAWU, has been calling for government to ensure all monies from the EU towards GuySuCo be spent on the corporation and to fully account for past grants awarded. This was followed by what some view as an appeasement by the President when he recently invited GAWU’s President to sit on the corporation’s Board.
For the first time in PPP history, therefore, with the Ramotar presidency being seen by most observers as anything but inspiring public confidence, the party appears extremely vulnerable at the polls. Given the new political dispensation, the President seems either unwilling or unable to find creative ways to work with the opposition-controlled Parliament, and has actually allowed for a carrying over of many of the behaviours that led to the party losing its parliamentary majority. So, the widespread belief is that although it was the Finance Minister’s actions that triggered the pending No Confidence Motion, it was the President who allowed the illegality. He owns the current mess!
Editor, a No Confidence Motion against governments is not unusual, and in the Caribbean, St. Kitts (2012) and Trinidad (2013) were the most recent that readily come to mind. In Guyana, a parliamentary No Confidence Motion was passed July 2012 against Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee, which specifically called for him to resign or be removed by the President. Neither happened, and the Motion was followed by a ‘gag’ order against Rohee, which the court subsequently found unconstitutional.
Rohee remained Home Affairs Minister because the President publicly expressed confidence in him, thereby overriding the parliamentary majority, and pretty much setting a precedent in Guyana that voided the true purpose of a No Confidence Motion. As a result, it is now possible a No Confidence Motion against the Ramotar administration will not automatically result in resignation and the staging of elections in three months, as per the constitution.
In fact, one Guyanese online news site reported on July 19, 2014,that the President said the No Confidence Motion was ‘baseless and spurious’, since he believes the Finance Minister did act legally. Now, if he truly believes that or wants to think he can use that as his trump card to delay or deny pending elections, is a matter for time to reveal, but we have to be prepared for some dilly-dallying with help from a government-friendly court.
And, oh, he will need as much time as possible to help his image-battered party prepare for General Elections; especially given that the general mood of the country is not in his government or party’s favour. The damaging Bai Shan Lin revelations are sure to continue having ripple effects because of the growing perception that the government seems to favour the Chinese over Guyanese. While the Guyanese taxpayer-funded Marriot, built exclusively by Chinese, is still fresh on our minds, the Bai Shan Lin issue simply compounds that and the actions of the Finance Minister. The general impression is that the government has no respect for Guyanese!
But some have argued that the President inherited a mess that he underestimated, hence the appearance of being overwhelmed and unable to produce creative ideas to restore some semblance of good governance. While others have surmised that he is a willing victim of the group-think syndrome bedeviling the PPP, so there can be no change in the way the party runs the government, which may well mean the status quo could remain unchanged if the PPP is returned to office. But can President Ramotar change and effect change if he is re-elected?
Almost 10 months into his presidency, he was asked by media operatives whether Guyana is likely to see him “charting his own course”, pulling back any of the major projects announced under the presidency of Bharrat Jagdeo and stepping out from the shadow of Mr. Jagdeo. His response was: “I don’t think you understand how we (the PPP/C) operate…that is why you probably ask a question like that. Jagdeo was not a law unto himself. He has never been a law unto himself. Those were programmes of the PPP/C. Those were policies of the PPP/C. I am not looking for a brand or to say that this is Ramotar’s brand…I have not been that egotistic,” (“President Ramotar will not stop any of Jagdeo’s projects,” KN, September 23, 2012).
It is very disappointing the President cannot differentiate between an egotistical or narcissistic leader who promotes himself and a leader who leaves a legacy on which others can build, but somewhere within the construct of his response lies the answer to the burning question about whether he can change and effect change, because there will definitely be no discernable change if he is re-elected with a PPP parliamentary majority.
Mr. Ramotar spent the last 33 months merely executing mostly questionable Jagdeo-era projects, and if re-elected, Guyana will continue to lose while he will continue gaining the pay and perks of the presidency followed by the generous presidential retirement benefits for simply doing Jagdeo’s bidding.
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