Power sharing at all levels of govt 'absolute prerequisite' - REFORM
Says PNC/R, PPP/C must 'seize the moment'

Stabroek News
March 31, 2001

The REFORM wing of the PNC/R says that power sharing at all levels of government is an absolute prerequisite for the growth of Guyana and both main parties must "seize the moment".

In a statement yesterday REFORM said "Guyana is at a unique time in its history. The opportunity to seize the moment must be taken. Too much is at stake. Leadership is critical. Time is of the essence. Waiting for the right political leverage would not be in the best interest of Guyana. Both main parties must do what is right for Guyana. The current electoral process has not and will never solve our problems of development".

REFORM, which contested the March 19 elections in an alliance with the People's National Congress (PNC) said it was proud of its partnership with that party and said it believed it had made a difference.

Noting that the official results of the elections were out - showing the PNC/R with 42% and the PPP/Civic with 53% - REFORM said "racial voting triumphed supreme. Guyana's elections are again nothing else but an ethnic census. This is Guyana's reality".

It lamented that REFORM's vision of `Putting Guyana First' "had been consumed by the resurrection and manipulation of racial distrust". It said that it remains undaunted in the quest to change the country's political culture and is "totally opposed to any form of violence for political goals".

REFORM - whose leading lights include businessmen Stanley Ming, Jerome Khan and Eric Phillips - said that the clear message sent by the electorate at the March 19 polls was that race will always be paramount. "The implication is also very simple and powerful, namely: economic development, peace, stability, racial harmony and Guyana's future can only be addressed by power sharing that is meaningful, inclusive and structured". It contended that regardless of which party wins an election in this country there will always be a large untrusting opposition of one race.

Arguing that the confusion of the 1997 and 2001 elections creates fertile ground for intransigence, REFORM said that both major parties - the PNC REFORM (PNC/R) and the PPP/C need to realise that it should not matter who won or lost.

Plugging for power sharing, it said this must be both political and economic as one without the other is meaningless and unsustainable. "Currently, Indo-Guyanese are on top of both the economic and political pyramids. The treatment of Afro-Guyanese has been very unfair and many feel totally marginalised", REFORM added.

"Power sharing has to occur at all levels of government: the Executive, the Cabinet and in Parliament. At the Executive level, perhaps the Trinidadian model offers a solution. At Cabinet level, proportionality should be the governing principle. This should also be at the Parliamentary level", REFORM asserted. The agreed proposals in the Constitution Reform Commission should also be passed into law within three months and boards and commissions should also reflect the proportionality principle, it stated.

Positing that job creation and economic growth are pivotal, REFORM said a jointly developed economic plan will foster the environment for mutually beneficial national development. The National Development Strategy - crafted under the PPP/C government - and Guyana 21 - constructed mainly by Ming and Phillips can be the basis of Guyana's modernisation, it added.

REFORM's partner, the PNC, has so far been lukewarm on power sharing. At the presidential debate just before the elections, PNC/R leader Desmond Hoyte 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. PNC/R's Vice-Chairman Vincent Alexander in a story in yesterday's edition of the Stabroek News had said that awarding ministerial posts to senior members of the party would be merely cosmetic and the party was more interested in full expression being given to parliamentary reforms which had been agreed in the constitutional reform process.

REFORM in its statement also reeled off a list of problems it had with the conduct of the March 19 polls. It said it detected 25 categories of major problems including 92 individuals at the Palms who could not vote even though they had gone through the entire process, multiple registrations by the same person using different names, persons unknown voting for another, individuals with ID cards who were not allowed to vote because their names did not appear on the Official List of Electors or its addendum even though the names had appeared on the Revised Voters List, a number of people omitted from the final list, a large number of new entrants to the list, dislocation of many people to other parts of the country, the same photo on multiple ID cards and many variations in people's names.

"These irregularities leave much doubt regarding the true size of the voters' list... and the magnitude of disenfranchisement", REFORM said adding that "human error alone cannot explain these significant problems".

Regardless of what the international observers say, REFORM said this election was neither free nor fair. It cited the many threats to the ROAR group and intimidation both perceived and real. It also homed in on what it said was the blatant misuse of the state media and state assets in the campaign saying that it all added up to an unfair environment. It recommended that the state media be divested and in the run up to this they should be managed by a committee or commission made up of representatives of the parties in Parliament in proportion to their seats.

REFORM's joining up with the PNC was announced by Hoyte at the party's congress in August last year. The two subsequently signed a compact in December 2000 setting out the objectives of the alliance.