Reopening Of Guyana’s Parliament Should Be Unconditional

 

A section of Guyanese protesting against the President's decision infront of the country's parliament recently.
A section of Guyanese protesting against the President’s decision infront of the country’s parliament recently.

By Dr. David Hinds

News Americas, GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mon. Nov. 17, 2014: Since the suspension of Guyana’s parliament almost a week ago the Parliamentary majority, in particular the APNU, has been making the right sounds and the right moves.

They have vowed to build a national movement to restore parliamentary democracy. They have internationalized the issue. My colleague, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, has articulated a sensible approach. He more than anyone in the Parliamentary Majority ranks understands this kind of politics!

APNU Leader David Granger has been more forceful than he has ever been since assuming the mantle of leader – a most welcome sign.

The AFC has been somewhat tentative. Its stance on the need to avoid dialogue with the PPP is militant. But there is at least one concern the party needs to sort out. Despite Nigel Hughes’ articulate presentation, the decision not to send one of its top flight Indian Guyanese leaders to speak at the rally at the Square of the Revolution was ultra conservative and unhelpful. The AFC continues to be unsure about how to deal with the sensitivities about alliance with the PNC within the Indian Guyanese community and the readiness of the PPP to exploit that issue.

But I still believe that Moses Nagamootoo speaking to Indian Guyanese from the Square of the Revolution would be a bold step in the direction of Ethnic solidarity and reconciliation. The movement for the restoration of democracy would be most effective if it is a multi-ethnic one, even as one must concede that African Guyanese would have to lead the way. Sending only African Guyanese speakers to African Guyanese dominated events is wrongheaded.

The PPP’s obvious plan to use the ensuing protest to whip up racial hysteria among Indian Guyanese must be confronted head-on. The APNU and AFC, preferably together, need to go to the Indian Guyanese communities and speak with them about the larger importance of the preservation of democratic norms for their own benefit and that of Guyana at large. That community should not be left at the mercy of the PPP’s propaganda and fear mongering. And those Georgetown Indian Guyanese business places who lock their doors and send home their Indian Guyanese staff because there is an APNU event in Georgetown must be exposed. They are subtly and no so subtly instilling fear in Indian Guyanese and constructing African Guyanese as reckless violent people.

Both the APNU and the AFC have been firm on the PPPs call for dialogue – they have avoided the bait thus far. Any dialogue with the PPP at this stage would soften the gravity of what President Ramotar has done and legitimize the suspension. The PPP must pay a very high price for what they have done; there should be no ifs and buts about that. What is constitutional is not necessarily democratic, moral and just. The letter of the law cannot be pursued outside of its spirit. There must be just cause for the suspension of parliament. And the PPP has presented none.

To tell the country and the world that you have dismissed the country’s elected representatives and a co-equal branch of government in order to get a dialogue with the Parliamentary parties is laughable and insulting to our collective intelligence. You dismiss the highest forum for dialogue in order to achieve dialogue. What irony!  In any case dialogue is never an effective tool of contestation. Dr. Luncheon once said that in a dialogue the PPP and PNC are not equals. And that has been the PPP’s approach to dialogue all these years. They have used dialogue to weaken their opponents and to sanitize their politics of domination.

The time for dialogue is over. It is now time to negotiate a way forward for Guyana. But before any such negotiation the Parliament must be restored. It should be unconditionally restored. There is no need to have any dialogue about that. The people should insist that the APNU and AFC hold the line on this.

The APNU and AFC have to be careful about their rhetoric of election. Movements are seldom built around elections. Elections should be part of a sustained movement to defend democracy, people’s rights and against political bullying and domination. Part of the present motivation should be to ensure that this kind of crude, unkind one-party dominance comes to an end once and for all. The task is not only the removal of the PPP government but equally important to banish one-party, one-race and rogue-elite governance from Guyana for good. If ever there was an opportunity to rekindle the movement spirit in Guyana, it is now. One of the negative characteristics of contemporary Guyanese and Caribbean politics is the absence of mass movements. We are a movement people.

Finally, the APNU and AFC should convene parliament, a People’s Parliament, outside of the chambers and continue the people’s business. Sittings should be held all over the country. They should debate and pass bills; that’s what they were elected for.

Dr. David Hinds, a political activist and commentator, is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Caribbean and African Diaspora Studies at Arizona State University. More of his writings and commentaries can be found on his Youtube Channel  Hinds Sight  and  on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com