At one of his endless press conferences, Bharrat Jagdeo complained that the boundaries in the local government landscape are being reshaped to conspiratorially give APNU an advantage in the upcoming local elections. Then Jagdeo made a pronouncement that exposed his intellectual mediocrity. He admitted that the Minister of Communities has the authority to reshape the boundaries.
One hopes that in acknowledging this undiluted power of the minister, Jagdeo realized that he and his side kick, Donald Ramotar, did stupid things for the fifteen years they ran the presidency (Jagdeo, 1999-2011; Ramotar 2011-2015).
After fifteen years in power where, except for 2011 onwards, the PPP had a parliamentary majority, Jagdeo never saw the value of removing that type of latitude from the minister. I believe the boundaries are being remapped to give APNU an advantage thus they will win more NDCs in November 2018. But the minister had that exact power when Jagdeo was president.
A simple amendment by the PPP-controlled National Assembly could have taken that power from the minister and safeguarded it in a more democratic formula; for example, redrawing of boundaries could only be done as a joint exercise between Parliament and GECOM, in which there must be mutual consent.
What the PNC is doing since 2015 is what the PPP did since it came to power in 1992. Very few scholars have researched it, and few Guyanese know about it, but the PPP reinvented the doctrine of paramountcy of the party after 1992 when it won the national elections after President Hoyte scrapped it when he came to power in 1985. There were conspicuous, ubiquitous signs of the return of party paramountcy and President Jagan encouraged it, some of which were egregious. I will always be at a loss to understand why even scholars who do research think that Cheddi Jagan was a far better leader than Forbes Burnham. They were both deeply flawed gentlemen
Cheddi Jagan became president in 1992 and one of his first acts was to reintroduce party paramountcy. The head of the PPP’s youth arm, Rohan Singh, was miraculously made head of presidential security and was automatically given the rank of senior superintendent of police. Party big wig, Roger Luncheon was made chairman of a state board, the NIS.
Party activists became permanent secretaries, some of whom could not speak or write English competently. Perhaps Jagan’s most depraved act of party paramountcy was the creation of the Fraud Squad to overlook Customs and Excise. Most of the officials placed there were party activists.
One of the most sickening manifestations of party paramountcy that surpassed any episode of that doctrine under President Burnham, took place under Cheddi Jagan and continued under Ramotar. After Jagan amended the University of Guyana Act, UG now had sectoral interests represented in the Council of the University.
They included doctors, lawyers, Amerindians, farmers, women, among others. Guess what Jagdeo did? Every sectoral appointment to the council was a PPP parliamentarian. So Gail Teixeira represented women. Nanda Gopaul represented farmers, the PPP parliamentarian from Berbice represented lawyers. Minister Frank Anthony’s wife, Shanti Singh, represented doctors. It was as crazy as that. I sat on the Council and endured these moments of party paramountcy and they sickened me to the core. Now guess what? The PNC is in power and has done the identical thing. The PNC has selected its own people in the council.
Jagdeo was happy to have his Minister of Local Government possess the sole authority to redraw the NDC boundaries. He and his party kings and queens never for a remote moment thought they could ever lose a local government poll and a national election. They woke up one morning and discovered that they were evicted. And the powers that they should have changed for philosophical reasons are now in the hands of their enemies.
But make no mistake; the PNC mandarins are not going to take that philosophical step and change inherently nasty laws. They too are thinking like the PPP; they will not lose future elections. But one morning, they too will wake up, and like the PPP leaders get a rude awakening – they will find they are on the road, thrown out by the electorate.
If and when that happens, and it is the PPP that will be in office, the pantomime will continue. The UG Council will be filled with PPP boys and girls. PPP activists will once more become Permanent Secretaries and the Minister of Local Government will remap the NDCs to give the PPP an advantage. And if he is still around, Roger Luncheon will take back the NIS.
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