Politics of inclusion needs legitimate representatives

by Prem Misir
Guyana Chronicle
March 30, 2001

SOME public remarks have indicated that for 50 years, the major political parties achieved nothing.

But we must acknowledge that the People's National Congress (PNC) occupied, albeit some illegally, 28 of those 50 years.

The PNC's fraudulent occupation of government over those many years socialised and resocialided some people to assimilate an undemocratic political culture of disrespect for the rule of law and advocacy of intimidation.

This political culture, if run the gamut, evolves into terrorism, as was demonstrated in the PNC's ruling era.

Some PNC cohorts' responses to three successive electoral defeats in 1992,

1997, and now 2001, border on contempt for the rule of law and effecting intimidation. Indeed, the PNC would argue that the crowd in front of the

High Court is engaging in a protest, and that they are not PNC supporters.

However, it would be grossly na´ve to think that the crowd has no connection to the PNC/Reform.

Clearly, the fact that the PNC/Reform filed a Prerogative Writ through

Joseph Hamilton to stay the swearing-in of President Bharrat Jagdeo, imposes a burden on the PNC/Reform to tell the protestors, whether PNC/Reform-aligned or not, that the court case is not about reversing the March 19 election results. This information that the case is not about overturning the election results was given by no less than the Chief Justice Desiree Bernard.

To date, the PNC/Reform has not released a statement to this effect. The Chief Justice also said that because the crowd was not appropriately informed about the issue before the court, there were unrealistic expectations about the conclusion of the case.

Given this context of orchestrated instability, it is not surprising that the PNC/Reform would now call for dialogue on fundamental issues. This is a concerted strategy intended to present the PNC/Reform in a good light, meaning that despite the continuing unrest, it has the magnanimity and initiative to advocate dialogue.

However, it is ludicrous for the PNC/Reform to believe that the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) or any other party would succumb to a stratagem of deceit. The sustained street protest as a different stratagem, may very well be a modality of pressuring the PPP/C to make grand concessions, inimical to consolidating a fragile democracy.

No dialogue, therefore, should take place in an environment of orchestrated instability.

What is the essence of this dialogue any way? The dialogue is intended to address the issues of governance, rule of law, and constitution reform. It

should take place at the appropriate time.

Keep in mind that Mr. Hoyte refused to sign the Carter text, advocating similar provisions now called for by the PNC/Reform. The leader said that contents of the Carter text already formed part of the constitutional provisions still to be discussed, and so there was really no reason for endorsing the text.

Why then is the PNC/Reform now calling for dialogue to cover similar provisions as contained in the Carter text?

Any dialogue, however, must have specific parameters, addressing PNC/Reform's equitability concerns, inter alia, and such dialogue must not be converted to a discussion on a national government which essentially is power sharing.

All parties accepted the rules of engagement for Elections 2001.

Subsequently, election results confirming a PPP/C win have triggered off calls, such as 'need for a national unity government', 'need for national government', 'cabinet reshuffle not enough', and 'it cannot be business as usual'. Given the need for inclusivity, nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the fact that contesting parties, prior to the elections, knew that 51% of the votes were required to form a government.

Would the PNC/Reform have agreed to a national government had they won 51% of the votes? If a victorious PNC/Reform would not have entertained a national

government, then their concerns about inclusivity now are not honourable.

Keep in mind that Mr. Hoyte has indicated on several occasions that he has no interest in power sharing. The fact that the PNC/Reform now is calling for dialogue almost tantamount to some semblance of power sharing, raises serious questions as to why it did not feel this way prior to the holding of elections.

The PNC/Reform is on record as adamantly and vociferously calling for elections to be held. In this case, the PNC/Reform should accept the election results.

The politics of inclusion must be separated out from power sharing.

The politics of inclusion must not pander to politicians hungry for power where these politicians merely use power sharing to gain power.

It's really acquiring power through the back door.

The politics of inclusion must primarily be concerned with institution building, that is, setting up and consolidating institutions genuinely responsive to and rooted in people's needs.

Power sharing, in theory, is attractive because it enables important representations to constitute the structure of government.

In Sisk's terms, power sharing needs a key group of moderate political leaders who indisputably and legitimately represent the people for whom they claim to act.

At this time, only the two major parties can fulfill this condition.

But the PNC/Reform through its leader, has rejected power sharing.

Furthermore, both major parties, by virtue of their existing structures, may have the capacity to form a government based on the principles of power sharing.

If people think that Guyana with essentially a two-party system, is inappropriate for the country's development, then a power-sharing structure with fragmented vested interests motivated by the sheer need to gain power, can only produce levels of political instability unimaginable.