The 8th President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Donald Ramotar and several high-ranking members of his cabinet, have developed a penchant for criticizing the APNU+AFC administration by writing letters to the Editors of the independent dailies.
The former President must know that a person who is vulnerable to criticism regarding certain issues should be extremely careful when launching verbal attacks on similar issues. It is way too early for the former Chief Executive to claim political amnesia. However, if that is the case, here is a reminder why APNU labeled him ‘Man of the Year’ in 2014.
In 2014, the Latin American Public Opinion (LAPOP) Project confirmed widely-held perceptions about Guyana’s 8th President. The Report determined that there had been a decline in Ramotar’s approval rating and an increase in the number of those who thought the economy worsened that year [Stabroek News 19th November 2014]. LAPOP also found that, referring to President Ramotar’s decision to suspend Parliament, fewer than 9 per cent of people agreed that the National Assembly should be suspended in a time of crisis.
The LAPOP Report added that “…the political outlook for the Guyanese regime suffered a moderate but general reversal in legitimacy levels in 2014.” It attributed loss of confidence in Ramotar to several factors including “…popular perception of economic performance, citizens’ sensing that the government may not be able to successfully negotiate agreements with opposition members in the parliament, or a broader public perception of a government inability to satisfy citizen demands.”
Ramotar’s prorogation of parliament on Monday 10th November enraged the nation. This ‘Proclamation’ effectively paralysed the parliamentary process and smothered the voices of the people’s legitimate representatives in the National Assembly – an affront to the Guyanese electorate who, three years earlier in November 2011, voted for A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change to have the majority of seats in the National Assembly.
Ramotar, as President, had earlier displayed gross disrespect for the National Assembly by refusing to assent to the Local Government (Amendment) Bill which had been passed by the National Assembly along with the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill, the Local Government Commission Bill and the Fiscal Transfers Bill. These had all been scrutinised by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Local Government before passage. He withheld his assent to the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2013 which stated that elections must be held on or before August 1, 2014.
Ramotar tactlessly told his supporters at a town hall meeting in New York that he did indeed promise ― in the PPPC 2011 election manifesto ― that, once his party was returned to office, local government elections would be held within the first year. He then admitted reneging on his own promise explaining, fatuously, “… I did not anticipate that we would have had a one-seat minority in Parliament and that created political uncertainty… within what we call the politics of the country.”
Ramotar’s low rating in terms of public security was consistent with his rating on governance. Ramotar himself had raised the alarm over the state of human safety and the rate of murders. He warned the Guyana Police Force, on 24th April 2014, that the country might be facing an “avalanche of crimes.”
The Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014, compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), had cited Guyana as having one of the highest homicide rates in the world with just over 20 deaths per 100,000 of the country’s population. This country was listed as “the 16th most homicidal country globally.”The Report pointed out that Guyana’s estimated rate of homicide per 100,000 of the population was 20.2 persons for 2012.
Ramotar, in the wake of the publication of the Report, summoned Guyana Defence Force Chief-of-Staff Brigadier Mark Phillips and Guyana Police Force Commissioner Seelall Persaud to the Office of the President. Ramotar, according to the Government Information Agency, instructed his security chiefs, rather implausibly, if not impossibly, to “get on top” of the crime situation.
Ramotar, apart from his busy schedule of cutting ribbons, delivering ‘keynote’ speeches, holding press conferences and opening exhibitions, was actually doing very little about solving the country’s day-to-day problems. His tenure was rocked by eruptions of angry public protests, both on the coastland and in hinterland communities.
The Barima-Waini Region saw public protests over the deplorable condition of schools’ toilets, roadways and the unstable electricity supply.
The Pomeroon-Supenaam Region saw protests by paddy farmers about payments for paddy and services to the industry.
The Essequibo Islands-West Demerara Region saw protests against torture and extra-judicial killings by members of the Police Force.
The Demerara-Mahaica Region saw protests over the failure to hold local government elections.
The East Berbice-Corentyne Region saw protest over crime on the Corentyne and, on the East Bank Berbice, bad roads.
The Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region’s regional administrative centre, Bartica, saw residents protesting about losing electricity for several days in July. Transport operators also protested about the delay in the reconstruction of the Bartica-Potaro Road.
The Potaro-Siparuni Region’s regional administrative centre, Mahdia, once again saw protests against poor roads, electricity, water and other services.
The Rupununi Region’s regional administrative centre, Lethem, saw residents converging outside the Lethem Power Company Inc. compound protesting against the hike in electricity tariffs for the community.
The Upper Demerara-Berbice Region saw protests, including the blockage of the Linden-Kwakwani Road, to call attention to the deplorable state of the vital roadway which had been deteriorating for years without serious long-term repairs.
The record shows that this was a troubled Presidency that ended with the loss of political power. No amount of letter writing or empty pontification can erase these facts.
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