Power sharing answer to racial insecurity in Guyana, Trinidad
- Panday Stabroek News
June 11, 2002
Articles on politics
Trinidad and Tobago’s opposition leader, Basdeo Panday believes power sharing is the solution to the ethnic problems being faced by Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
Speaking with reporters yesterday at Le Meridien Pegasus, Panday said, however, that educating the people that their interest lay in working together was critical to the process.
Panday is leader of the United National Congress (UNC), which, like the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) has 18 seats in the Trinidad National Assembly. He observed that as long as there is voting along racial lines, the Westminster-style single vote constituency first-past-the-post electoral system, would generate among the group that loses the fear of domination by the group that wins the election. He said that the answer is a constitutional arrangement, which allows both sides to participate in the governance of the country.
To address the situation that obtains in his country, Panday said, he would like to see an electoral system introduced under which the President and Prime Minister are appointed respectively by the party with the largest number of votes and the one with the second largest number of votes.
He stressed that the next elections would likely generate the same results as the last and only a reform of the constitution that allowed for power sharing could provide a solution to the racial insecurity.
However, in the absence of comprehensive reform, Panday stated that at a minimum he would like the constitution to be amended to allow the President to appoint the Prime Minister from the party which has the largest number of votes where the parties have the same number of seats.
Panday is on a round of fund-raising trips for his party which would take him to Miami, New York, Toronto and London to build up its war chest for "elections likely to be held this year." Guyana was the first stop and his visit here was organized by a group of Guyanese and Trinidad businessmen.
He said that they arranged a series of activities, which he attended.
Businessman Vic Oditt was reportedly one of the local organisers, but Panday declined to disclose any names. He also claimed that he was unaware whether or not they had business holdings in the twin-island republic. He said too that he had not met some of the Guyanese organisers before his visit here.
The UNC leader declined too to name the Trinidadian businessmen who had helped to organise the trip, explaining that to do so would be to expose them to the victimization that results from the nature of the political culture in the region.
Panday refused to disclose how much money he had raised at the events organised for him here and declined to comment whether at one of the functions some US$50,000 was subscribed.
Panday also declined commenting on the state of his compliance with the request of his country’s Integrity Commission about an account in a London, England bank to which he is a signatory but which he says is his wife’s. He explained that he was relying on the advice of his lawyers who have advised against his commenting on the issue so that the inquiry is not conducted in the media.
During his visit here Panday also paid a courtesy call on President Bharrat Jagdeo with whom he said he exchanged notes on the situation in the two countries.
He denied too despite a May 12, 2002 Sunday Mirror report that he was in Guyana on the weekend prior to the March 19 elections together with Guyana-born, US-trained lawyer, Randy Depoo. He said that the only thing accurate in the paper was its name.
Panday asserted that he ought to know were he was and that there would be no records either at the airlines or immigration that he entered Guyana during the period in question.
The Sunday report said that an informant told them that Panday and Depoo stayed at the Main Street Plaza, in Room 305.
President Jagdeo also denied the reports by a local television newscast that he had met Panday.
The report was based on an interview President Jagdeo had with Peter Richards whose cameraman reportedly had seen Panday at the airport.
Asked about any similarities that they identified in his discussion with President Jagdeo, Panday said that both Guyana and Trinidad are experiencing increasing criminal activities and a slowing down of investment because of political instability.
Commenting on what further he would like the CARICOM Heads to do, Panday said that he would like them to insist on a return to parliamentary democracy in his country, as what obtained now was an executive dictatorship. He said that CARICOM intervened by invitation since to do otherwise would fracture the relationship between the member countries.