The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) would be naïve to believe that the demotion of Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine is in any way remotely connected to his performance as Minister of Education, his failing health, or the findings of a Commission of Inquiry into the education sector. None of these reasons can hold up to scrutiny.
Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine has not been a non-performer. He has been one of the better Ministers. There are other ministers who have failed miserably or have performed worse than Dr. Roopnaraine, and they have not been demoted.
There have been Ministers who have been embroiled in public scandals and they have not been removed. There have been concerns that some Ministers are not functioning properly. They are still in their portfolios.
The President has gone as far as defending some of the Ministers in the face of serious public criticisms over their actions, including one Minister against whom a complaint was lodged. Performance, therefore, cannot be the reason why Dr. Roopnaraine was removed from the Ministry of Education.
Illness also cannot be a reason. There have been other Ministers who have been ill, some seriously ill. They have not been given a reduced workload. There is also no evidence that Dr. Roopnaraine is unable to function as Minister of Education. If anything, in terms of the volume of work that he will be required to undertake within the Public Service Ministry, there is just as much work to be done there as in the Ministry of Education.
This brings us to the question of the Commission of Inquiry into the education sector, and one particular finding which has been made public: the need for reform and innovation.
This is not a new development. In fact, one of the leading advocates of the need for reform has been Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine. This is one of the reasons why he initiated a Commission of Inquiry into education. It would be ironic if he became a victim of his own initiative.
One therefore has to look for another reason why Dr. Roopnaraine was removed. That reason can only be political. That reason can only be that the WPA leaders outside of the government were playing by the rules which APNU, aka PNCR, wanted of it, and since Dr. Roopnaraine could place no lid on criticisms of the government, he had to be made an example, so that the WPA would fall in line. This is a typical military tactic – it is a strategic strike.
WPA leaders, especially Dr. David Hinds, have been prepared to call a spade a spade. Dr. Hinds has praised the coalition when he thought they did well, but he has criticized them when they have messed up – and there is hardly a week which goes by that the coalition government has not messed up.
Dr. Roopnaraine, it would seem, has paid the price for the outspokenness of the WPA leadership which is outside of the government. It is hard for a party like the PNCR to accept that it is in a coalition with other parties and yet can be subject to public criticism from those parties.
Guyanese will recall that Burnham had used criticism of his government, published in a column in the Mirror newspaper, as the pretext for calling off power-sharing talks with the PPP after the Grenada invasion.
The PNC is a party which cannot accept internal nor external criticisms from parties with which it is aligned. It views such conduct as a breach of trust. The demotion of Dr, Roopnaraine, for all intents and purposes, constitutes a response to the criticisms which had been emanating from sources within the WPA.
The demotion of Dr. Roopnaraine constitutes an attack on the WPA. If the party is naïve enough not to recognize this, it will end up far more discredited than it did when it jumped into bed with the PNCR with the ingenious ‘confession’ that the WPA was preparing to wage war against the PNC just prior to Rodney’s death.
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