A microscopic view of the Macro -The 10th Parliament

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By Kurt Campbell

Parliament[www.inewsguyana.com] – If ever there was a moment Guyanese were disappointed in their parliamentarians, it would be today. This is not “Kurt Campbell says”, this is what the wider cross section of the Guyanese population say.

If ever, there was an epoch where citizens thought time and money are being wasted, it would be the duration of the 10th Parliament and if ever there was an instant where Guyanese had consensus on an issue, it would be this:

The word on the street is that Parliament not only wastes time and tax payers’ money but has become an arena where personal vendettas are pursued.

I may be inclined to agree, but as a Journalist I ought to do proper research before arriving at a conclusion.

This is what I found:

·         There have been 62 sittings of the 10th Parliament, in which over $91 million was spent on meals, transportation and subsistence for Parliamentarians. A breakdown shows that a total of $1,473,473 is expended every time there is a sitting, despite the actual length of the sitting.

·         During the corresponding period for the ninth parliament, there were 51 sittings of the National Assembly, which totaled approximately $75 million.

The difference?…. 42 bills were brought before the house during that period [ninth parliament], of which 30 were passed and assented to by then, President Bharrat Jagdeo, one of the remaining 12 bills was withdrawn.

So far, for the 10th Parliament, 47 bills have been brought to the House, of which 28 were passed and 19 were assented to by President Donald Ramotar. The others are either before a select committee, still being debated or were withdrawn or are being reworked. The 10th Parliament so far has also seen more bills being tabled by the opposition.

The legendary Sociologist Karl Marx had been an advocate of the Dialectics. Marx’s dialectic speaks to conflict bringing progress and this is precisely how the opposition sees it.

“The 10th Parliament is one with a difference because the Government does not have a majority so they cannot sweep through things at their whims and fancies,” says Amna Ally – Opposition Chief Whip.

Opposition Chief Whip, Amna Ally.
Opposition Chief Whip, Amna Ally.

“To a large extent, it was productive and we have been able to achieve several things. We have been able to ask questions to get details about Government’s business which in any case should be clear to everyone. Yes to some extent we have achieved and it was productive during the last session of the 10th Parliament,” she said during a recent interview with iNews.

But her colleagues on the other side of the House would disagree, I’m sure.

In fact, the Government had said in the past that it sees the opposition’s posture as impeding National Development and an abuse of its one seat majority which the combined opposition gained at the last elections.

Formally, it’s called “tyranny of the majority” or ‘majoritarianism’ which is a theory or practice in which priority is afforded to the will of majority; one of the beautiful side effects of “Democracy”. Doesn’t it say majority rule?

Efforts made to contact Government Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira for this feature proved futile.

Meanwhile, government has had to resort to the court for clarity on issues it felt was counterproductive, unconstitutional and irregular. These include the budget cuts and wanting to remove a Government Minister. The government has also criticized the opposition for motions which it believes lack relevance, tabling Bills that lack constitutional consistency and opposing critical developmental projects.

It makes one question whether 49 percent of a country really could, conscionably be considered the minority. This is almost half of the nation that did not vote for the Opposition, almost half!

I may not be qualified to give a Math lesson, but I am qualified to suggest that a healthy pluralist democracy should include a wide dispersal of political power amongst competing groups, a high degree of internal responsiveness with group leaders being accountable to members and a neutral government machine that is sufficiently fragmented to offer groups a number of points of access.

A view that President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Clinton Urling seem to share:

President of the GCCI, Clinton Urling. [iNews' Photo]
President of the GCCI, Clinton Urling. [iNews’ Photo]
“I have mixed feelings about the performance of the 10th Parliament. on the one hand, I’m happy that they have tabled and passed a number of important Bills and that the strength of the combined opposition has resulted in the government being more open to scrutiny when it comes to allocations for the national estimates or for support on important projects and initiatives. However, on the other, I’m completely disappointed that both sides of the House cannot find common ground or convergence on important legislation or on the budgetary estimates. This has resulted in the rejection of meritorious legislation, time wasting, loss of resources, and international sanctions being applied to Guyana as a form of penalty. All this has certainly hurt the country’s image and investment profile and which will have very long term negative consequences. I hope that political maturity can prevail and both sides of the house can work in the best interests of all the people of Guyana.”

I’m a realist; I believe in what works and whatever tactic, system or structure is currently being employed by local politicians is not working. This, by the way is what “Kurt Campbell says”.

Power and ego are big parts of the political animal; but if national interest is at the core; then regardless of how difficult letting the monster go, it will be done. It is time for the games to end and for each to understand its role in developing Guyana; work together and get it done!

An opposition parliamentarian once asked, “What else is the opposition to do but oppose?” of course they are called opposition for a purpose, right? Wrong!

Are we going to forever be followers and be defined by what tradition says is our role or are we going to do what is in the best interest for all Guyana?

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