Some time back I wrote that if only people could talk to each other the country would be a better place. I remember back in 2012 there was a lot of fuss over the first budget that the Ramotar administration was presenting. The opposition which controlled the Parliament said that it should have had a say in the preparation.
The result is that there were cuts to the budget and the matter ended up in court. The same thing happened with the 2013 and 2014 budgets.
There were Bills that were considered important. These languished in the National Assembly because the government and the opposition could not talk enough to solve the problem. This trend has continued, with the result that Guyana saw its Parliament prorogued for the first time since it became an independent nation.
The irony is that President Donald Ramotar used the need to talk as the excuse to prorogue Parliament. Immediately I said that if the political parties could not talk during the sitting, what was there to make them talk during the period when the Parliament is prorogued?
I got a rather puerile answer. The General Secretary of the ruling People’s Progressive Party, Clement Rohee, said that what does not happen under normal conditions could be made to happen under special conditions. Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon, echoed those sentiments.
I asked President Ramotar whether it is true that he is intransigent, as the Leader of the Opposition contended during an interview. The president said that it was the opposition that was intransigent, holding firmly to its views with which it entered the dialogue. The answer was astonishing. I would think that once people meet to talk, they would all keep their options open.
The President did offer some examples. One of them, he said, was the case where the government hiked the old age pension following discussions with the Leader of the Opposition. He then said that the opposition reneged on the issue of electricity subsidies. He said that the parties left the meeting agreeing that the subsidies would be reduced.
There were other examples, one dealing with the passage of the anti-money laundering Bill. After much disagreement, President Ramotar said that he told the opposition that he was prepared to pass the Bill that A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) fashioned. He said that APNU did not accept that offer because by then, it had attached other conditions to supporting the government.
I know what is happening. In the wild, the predators bide their time as they track an animal, a fearsome one at that. When they spot a weakness they move in for the kill. Human beings are no different, especially in the political arena.
When the People’s National Congress (PNC) was in power the then opposition People’s Progressive Party stalked it, seeking support from just about every quarter. When it sensed that the PNC was weak and could not withstand another attack it pounced and secured victory at the polls.
The same thing is happening now. Indeed, the government did many things to put it against those who are opposed to it and even those who support it. One was the extent of corruption. People saw those who were poor one minute and filthy rich from the moment they entered Government circles. At the same time, opponents were singled out for serious treatment. Both supporters and opponents saw these things.
And like the predator, the opposition also noted the migration trends. It recognized that the government supporters, for whatever reason, were leaving the country. The recent population census was revealing; it showed a decline in the population, confirming what many were saying that Guyana is one country in the world to record a declining population.
The no confidence motion was the tool that the opposition chose to use. Donald Ramotar opted to avoid the challenge. Yesterday, even President Ramotar recognized that he would have to face the polls, that he cannot postpone the inevitable.
It is here that things get interesting. I cannot say how much work the opposition has been doing among the population. It does not get the kind of publicity that the government does. I do know that it also does not have the kind of money that an election campaign needs.
Then one must look at the equation. There has been migration, but it was not a one-way street. Both sides of the political fence lost people. From the point of view of many, there will be yet another minority parliament. This is going to pose an interesting proposition. Should the ruling party win a plurality then we would be back to the same situation.
They say hindsight is almost perfect vision. Perhaps the government would then be more amenable to talking about things the opposition wants; that some of the highbrowed attitude would change. If one or other of the opposition parties gets to form the government then we may very well have more of the same that we have today.
What I do know is that if this trend continues, then we could see voter apathy.
The government had a chance to catch the eye of some people. It could have let them enjoy the benefits of the falling oil prices. It chose to go after money. The good thing is that President Ramotar recognizes that he has to face the no confidence motion or, simply call elections.
Either way, I will have a good Christmas and prepare for a hectic 2015, because I can see elections being called in April; or perhaps around the Mash celebrations. Time will tell.
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