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Here we go again. This past week in yet another show of domination, the PPP government railroaded the opposition to get its way on deciding who represents the National Assembly on the Natural Resource Fund Board. After telling the country that its commandeering of the NRF last December was aimed at democratizing the Fund, it has now for all intents and purposes proven that that was nothing short of outright dishonesty. It must now be clear for the world to see that this government has no intention to willingly govern in the interests of all citizens. It appears as if Freedom House has decided that it would maintain its authoritarian drive regardless of the consequences.
After initially deciding not to participate in the process to name members to the Board, the main opposition PNC relented and argued that it would participate as a matter of pragmatism. It contended that it is better to be in the process as a form of oversight rather than be outside. It should be noted that the Coalition partner, the AFC, had already signaled that it would break ranks with its ally and participate. That may have prompted the PNC’s change of heart. Whether that is the case or not, the opposition ended up fooling itself. They may have been acting on the assumption that the PPP was allocating a seat to the opposition in the spirit of inclusivity. In the end they embarrassingly walked out of the meeting complaining of the government’s autocratic action.
The question is this: why are they surprised? As it turned out the PNC had initially got it right. First, there was never a guaranteed seat for the opposition. Second, since coming to office two years ago, the PPP has done nothing to indicate that it intends to accommodate the opposition. Third, by naming two PNC aligned persons or former PNC members, the PPP was hinting it was up to tricks. It was baiting the opposition and they walked into the trap. The PPP would not name Hamley Case and Dunstan Barrow as nominees if it did not intend to make one of them its preferred candidate . The opposition by naming among its nominees Christopher Ram gave the PPP the opportunity to reject an Indian Guyanese who is known to be partial to the government in favor of a PNC aligned African Guyanese. It was a case of getting its nominee while avoiding the charge of racial favoritism.
Now the Private Sector would name a candidate. Everyone knows that the Private Sector is partial to the government and would name a pro PPP candidate. The President would then name the remaining three candidates, thus giving the PPP all five slots on the Board. That the Opposition did not see this coming is more than a minor disaster. At some point the Opposition parties must decide on a clear strategy to confront the dictatorship. Autocratic rule cannot be tamed by accommodation—that is a recipe for disrespect and manipulation. It is time the Opposition show some backbone and stop subjecting itself and its supporters to humiliation.
Where do we go from here? The government will not cede any space to the opposition. Our adopted Westminster majoritarian system accommodates one-party domination. The PPP’s historic quest for domination drives its praxis. The combination of the two strands shapes governance in Guyana. Clearly the PPP is not constrained by opposition complaints or even rumblings from the USA establishment.
We have editorialized in the past about the risk of the PPP’s approach. Experience has shown that that invariably leads to instability that often takes on a life of its own. Perhaps there is something the PPP knows that the rest of us mortals do not comprehend. Perhaps the PPP is banking on the disarray in the PNC and by extension the opposition. Perhaps the ruling party has made assumptions about the opposition constituency that leads it to not fear any mass reaction. Perhaps it has secured the loyalty of the armed forces to put down any unrest. Whatever it is, the PPP is pressing forward with its agenda. We shall see.