PNC REFORM wants parliamentary powers
-Vincent Alexander
Recognises need for dialogue with PPP/C

By William Walker
Stabroek News
March 30, 2001

The PNC REFORM does not consider handing out of a few ministries to members of the opposition to be real power sharing. The party also realises that some dialogue should be opened with the PPP/Civic sooner rather than later, its Vice-Chairman Vincent Alexander says.

Calls have been coming from various quarters for some form of power sharing, but the main parties are not expressing great enthusiasm for such a concept.

General Secretary of the PPP/C Donald Ramotar replied, "No comment," when asked about the subject yesterday.

Alexander, vice-chairman of the PNC/R, told Stabroek News that the awarding of ministries to senior members of the PNC/R would be merely cosmetic and that those persons could not necessarily be viewed as speaking for the party or that the party would then be considered part of the government.

Some members of the party had tabled the concept of executive power sharing - in other words a sharing of ministries and a bilateral body to coordinate national policy - a few years ago, Alexander recalled. But this concept "was not accepted by the party at the time."

Alexander said no new position had been taken since then, although the ideas have been re-tabled and are being discussed now. He cautioned that he did not "know whether they will win out".

PNC/R leader Desmond Hoyte, at the presidential debate organised by the Elections Commission, had dismissed the "horse trading" of ministries and said he had difficulties with many power-sharing models as they did not provide for an effective opposition.

Alexander said the PNC/R was more concerned with talks on the fundamental issues of governance, including completion of constitutional reforms. Alexander stated that the party had been in a position to pass all measures but the PPP/C did not take them to Parliament before the elections. These reforms essentially addressed the devolution of power away from the presidency through the establishment of parliamentary bodies, such as procurement and judicial committees. In the case of the awarding of contracts these are currently approved by Cabinet and the reforms would require them to go before a bi-partisan committee for review.

Many of these issues were outlined in the proposal put forward by former US President Jimmy Carter just after the elections. Neither party leader signed the document. But Alexander did not consider this devolution to be power sharing, but rather the proper functioning of a healthy parliament. Any talks would also have to address the establishment of the Ethnic Relations Commission and the articulation of a land policy as prescribed under the Constitutional Reform Committee Report.

Alexander conceded that the present court challenge by PNC/R member Joseph Hamilton to the swearing in of president-elect Bharrat Jagdeo might be an impediment to opening dialogue with the PPP/C. A decision in this case is expected today or tomorrow.

TUF leader Manzoor Nadir - who following the detection of an error in the tabulation of results will now have a seat in Parliament - said any appointments of opposition figures should be done on a one-to-one basis with the PNC/R. Anything else would be Judas politics.

His concept of power sharing is "a vibrant opposition having control of key parliamentary committees that have strong oversight powers to investigate all aspects of the executive. In addition, what is needed are very strong regional administrations and local authorities with an acknowledgement of their right to access their fair share of government resources."

Nadir said there was always a need for dialogue although perhaps not at the highest level at this time. It was important that leaders remain civil, he added. As for the street protests, Nadir advised the PNC/R that if it ever wanted "to win an election in this country they have to deal with matters using due process rather than through street demonstrations because ultimately these lead to Indo-Guyanese people getting beat up. One should not play with fire unless one can control it."

Ravi Dev, ROAR parliamentarian-in-waiting, said the subject of power sharing should not be broached at this time when the PNC/R had taken to the streets. It would be negotiating peace under a gun, not unlike British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at Munich. Until the PNC/R adhered to the accepted norms of a peaceful democracy any agreement would smack of capitulation, he said.