By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
Yesterday the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) related a story of a not so beautiful relationship shared with the government of Guyana which is made up of five other political parties. The WPA said that over the past two
years it has been sidelined. It was recently disrespected.
The WPA hosted a press conference, yesterday, at which these sentiments were expressed.
The main spokespersons were executive members Dr. David Hinds and Tacuma Ogunseye.
Dr. Hinds articulated the complex situation that the WPA faces in balancing support for the government and support for its tradition which is one that questions power. “Our other partners do not come from a tradition of questioning power. They held power.”
Asked if the WPA representative in Government stayed true to that tradition of questioning power, Dr. Hinds responded in the negative.
Dr. Hinds told the media that the most functioning council in Government is the Cabinet “and I understand that it is Cabinet convention that you do not question power there. You question power in other councils: within the APNU, within the coalition and it is there we are fighting to make our voices heard.”
Dr. Hinds said that it is Cabinet protocol that “you don’t have dissent and all of that. So we would not expect that at the level of Cabinet our Minister would argue a WPA position.”
However, Dr. Hinds said that the WPA representative in Cabinet, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine went to WPA meetings but was never put in an awkward position of having to divulge “Cabinet secrets.”
“We never put our representative in that position and we never sought to impose ourselves on the Education Ministry. We wanted Roopnarine to govern as a minister and not to be hamstrung by the political party.”
Notwithstanding that position being articulated, the WPA still bemoaned being sidelined at all levels.
WPA Executive Member, Tacuma Ogunseye said, “The WPA was completely sidelined, and there is no question about that. We may argue about why; but, any objective examiner would come to that conclusion.”
Ogunseuye said that the APNU has not been meeting for just about two years. “So what you have is the ministries in the government being driven by Cabinet decisions. The kind of involvement that the political parties ought to have in shaping policies did not take place because the political leadership of the APNU was not meeting. It’s unique situation and the WPA had to be careful.”
The executive member said that the WPA has to keep in mind that as a coalition, the APNU never discussed how it interprets Cabinet responsibility.
“Different parties got different interpretations of Cabinet confidently…We were a young alliance trying to deal with removing the PPP so a lot of the principles and practices of the government was not never debated and discussed.”
The WPA also spoke about its Saturday meeting with the President on the reassignment of Dr. Rupert Roopnarine to another ministerial portfolio.
Dr. Hinds said that this was a very useful meeting, as it allowed the party to engage the President and his team on burning issues of concern.
Dr. Hinds said that the WPA “in the circumstances” tried to be as frank as possible.
He said, “The President responded to our concerns and introduced some of his own. WPA feels that the meeting was cordial and fraternal.”
On the issue of the reassignment of Dr. Roopnarine, WPA reiterated that while it does not question the President’s right to determine where in the cabinet Ministers are asked to serve, the fact that the party is part of a partnership and coalition and that the minister in question is an Executive Member of the WPA, it would have been prudent and respectful to consult with it before making a decision.
“WPA repeats that its first knowledge of the imminent move was when the president met with Mr. Desmond Trotman on Monday June 12, one day before the formal announcement.”
Dr. Hinds added that in a statement issued by the Ministry of the Presidency following the meeting, the President “appears to be sticking to the view that the WPA was consulted on the Roopnarine reassignment.
WPA respectfully disagrees with the president’s notion of consultation in this instance. For us, consultation constitutes active engagement prior to decision making. We cannot accept that notification of a decision after it has been made amounts to consultation.
“However, we hope that in the future, we can find common ground on this matter.”
APNU to finally meet
WPA feels the most important outcome of the meeting with the President is the decision to hold an APNU meeting on July 22. “We see this as a major breakthrough, since the APNU has not met for almost two years. It is our view that much of the discontent and concerns arise out of the failure of the APNU to function.
“WPA hopes to further press its case for a deepening of relations and meaningful participation within the APNU and the broader coalition at this meeting.”
Dr. Hinds told the media that other parties in the coalition had also been complaining about being sidelined within the government. “We feel that the meeting next month offers a new beginning that will take into consideration the consequences for the government not consulting over the last two years.”
WPA was represented at the meeting by Dr. Clive Thomas, Dr. Hinds, Dr. Wazir Mohammed, Dr. Rishi Thakur, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, Desmond Trotman, Ogunseye, Jinnah Rahaman and Ali Majeed.
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