One of Burnham’s quirks was to merely observe the FORM of the law. As to its SUBSTANCE, that was something else!! So when he was ruling Guyana as the “Kabaka”, and his own Constitution mandated he should “consult” with the Minority Leader (Jagan), he’d call up Jagan, ask him about the weather or some such inane subject; hang up and then chuckle to subordinates in the room, “I just consulted Cheddi!!”
Cognisant of this farce, when the Constitution was amended in 2000 to democratise it, the stipulation was altered to “meaningful consultation” with the Opposition Leader. The purpose, of course, was to ensure the consultation should not be “pro forma”…but MEANINGFUL. In other words, the opinion of the Opposition Leader should be considered seriously before making a decision on the subject under consideration. It was a specific application of the fundamental principle of representative governance – that the “other side” must be heard – which is applicable in all relations between government and stakeholders in civil society.
Well, we’ve all witnessed the insistence of the Granger PNC government that the old Burnhamite mockery of “consultation” with the Opposition Leader become the order of the day again. Just look at how he ignored even the SPECIFIC explication of “meaningful consultation” on appointing the GECOM Chair from a LIST provided by the Opposition Leader!!
It was therefore not surprising that this disdain for consultations with anyone outside of the Government extended to the most momentous decision made in this new millennium – closing more than half of the sugar industry, which was the reason for the foundation of this country – without formal consultations with the sugar unions!! In a couple of two-hour talks AFTER the decision, they were merely INFORMED of the Government’s decision!
But those unions, representing more than 5700 workers thrown into the streets, hoped that at least the Judiciary — the bastion of the Constitution and its ethos – would deliver justice to them. They pleaded to the High Court for the Government to annul its decision because of lack of “meaningful consultations”. They were turned down. But this shouldn’t have surprised them – the same High Court had rejected the PPP’s complaint of not being meaningfully consulted on Granger’s GECOM Chair! The unions turned to the Appeal Court, only to get the same answer.
But the unkindest cut of all was the CCJ also reaffirming the Guyanese courts’ decision that the Government had “meaningfully consulted” the unions!! It admitted the consultations were perfunctory, but said they satisfied the “minimum” requirement.
And imagine, the court announced this decision on the day before Emancipation Day!! It was the same thinking that compensated the slave owners for slavery.
But not the slaves!! Oh judgement…!
With the Judiciary allowing democracy to be vitiated by Granger’s unilateralism, without consulting either the Opposition or civil society stakeholders on matters affecting the running of the country’s political economy, his appointments of individuals to head key agencies, of which they haven’t a clue, continues unabated. On the day before Emancipation, following the CCJ’s flooring the sugar unions, Granger unilaterally appointed one Dr Mark Bynoe to head the long-promised Department of Energy.
The position was never advertised…and the individual just has some experience as an “environmental economist”!! Can you believe this? Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, screws us out of any decent equity from our oil by negotiating a contract because he had absolutely NO experience with oil. He’s removed.
And now the man who’ll be in charge of negotiating new concessions for our remaining blocks has even less experience than Trotman?? If your Eyewitness didn’t know better, he’d think Granger was committing political hara kiri. But he knows better.
It’s all about who’s a “born PNC”!
Life’s full of ironies. A few years ago, Mark Bynoe published a paper: “CITIZEN PARTICIPATION IN THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT PROCESS IN GUYANA: REALITY OR FALLACY?” His answer was “fallacy”.
So what’s the answer about participation in Government’s decision-making, Mark?