So the President used an unusual word, “vulgarian”, dating back to the 1640-50s, to describe the PPPC’s protest in the Parliament Chambers during his speech? Most people got the gist of what the word meant but actually the choice of the word by the President is rather illustrative of a particular mind set.
The word means “a vulgar person, especially one whose vulgarity is the more conspicuous because of wealth, prominence, or pretensions to good breeding” according to the Random House and Collins dictionaries. It is a little used word, popular in the 1800s, and mostly used as a “put down” especially from an aristocratic or upper middle class point of view to denote people not of their class or beneath their class.
So the President found the PPPC behavior vulgarian? Funny he didn’t find that the case when he was Leader of the Opposition and his members, surely under his direction, banged the tables for long periods on many many occasions in the 10th Parliament thereby preventing several members of the government side from speaking, including Minister Clement Rohee for 9 months, or, singing hymns loudly, or, even putting up placards. It happened so many times that the then Speaker, Mr. Raphael Trotman, now Minister of Natural Resources, had to suspend the sittings on several occasions, and, on others, adjourn the sitting abruptly as the Opposition benches refused to listen to his admonitions and appeals to stop the noise and allow the sitting to proceed. At no time was any action taken by the Speaker to discipline these members.
This is the same APNU and AFC in opposition who reduced three annual budgets by GY $90B, thereby denying Guyanese of important services and programmes they deserved.
It is the same APNU and AFC opposition which reneged on agreements made in the Inter-Parliamentary Parties Dialogue with President Ramotar on the Linden electricity subsidy, on the composition of the Commission of Inquiry on the Linden Disturbances, and, on the Amaila Falls Hydro Project.
It is the same APNU and AFC opposition which fanned the disturbances in Linden for 36 days that destroyed parts of the town, and, divided the country physically in two.
It is the same APNU and AFC which organized and gave support to the October 11th, 2012, protesters on the East Bank Highway in the vicinity of Agricola village, some imported from outside the community, who blocked the main thoroughfare into and out of the capital city, Georgetown, with connections to two other regions at rush hour for 7 hours. Vehicles and debris were used to block the highway on all 4 lanes and fires were set. Thousands of commuters including school children were trapped in a small area with no way to turn. Citizens were attacked and robbed and hundreds of vehicles were unable to move for over 7 long hours. Thousands of citizens, including school children, who lived across the Demerara River walked back to Georgetown to try to reach the boats at the Ferry stelling and were also robbed. The Police were physically assaulted and abused by the protesters. Again on October 15th and 16th, at rush hour, the protesters attempted to block the highway again and succeeded in blocking 2 of the 4 lanes. This resulted in the backing up of traffic where some vehicles were attacked and damaged by protesters. The Police again were abused but the situation was finally brought under control.
In retrospect, the loss of life and property during the Linden disturbances and the Agricola protests are indicators of the level of extremism and irresponsible and reckless leadership that the APNUAFC government is capable of.
Ironic isn’t it that the worst behavior of the parliamentary opposition in the Chambers was during the 10th Parliament when Mr. Granger was Leader of the Opposition?
This pattern of behavior continued during the election campaign, and, after the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections, whilst the country was waiting for the final results, the Party and Coalition he heads threatened the GECOM, the International observers and the diplomatic corps that they would burn the city down and wreck violence if the results weren’t announced urgently? This scare tactic was designed to prevent a recount of 20 ballot boxes which the Chairman initially agreed to on the morning of May 14, 2017 and then recanted a few hours later.
And now as Government, the President and his spokesperson, having unilaterally, unconstitutionally and undemocratically appointed the Chairman of GECOM, and destroyed trust in the integrity of the electoral machinery, finds the PPPC protest in the Chambers anti-national? And the Prime Minister calls this action “domestic terrorism”? Their sensibilities have been offended by a peaceful protest? How hypocritical!
But the President’s belittling of the Parliamentary Opposition is a mere veneer to distract from the magnitude of his deeds. The President has cast his stone; he will go down in the annals of Guyana’s history as the first President to violate the constitutional provisions regarding the appointment of the Chairman of GECOM. He has triggered a trajectory of his own making; his will be an ignoble notoriety.
He has refused to accept that his actions have immensely damaged the political fabric of our nation. He has further exacerbated the situation with his speech in Atlanta, Georgia, which further confirms that his objective is to take this country down a dangerous path of PNC party paramountcy.
The statement that the “PNC is the face of the future. We are what Guyana looks like, not the people that you saw on Thursday (in the National Assembly)” will require by itself many other letters, but immediately it can be interpreted as a clarion call that is arrogant, elitist, and ethnically biased, and hence fundamentally undemocratic.
Not surprising the statement reflects the profound prejudice of an urban older male upper middle class in power who have no tolerance for anything different as is reflected repeatedly in their statements, deeds, policies and programmes. Fundamentally, they are anti-working class, anti-farmers, anti-women, anti-youth, anti-criticism, and undemocratic. While in opposition they were good at dishing out their criticism, mainly based on fiction, but now in government, they are extraordinarily thin-skinned, even though so many of them are former military men.
They have thrown out transparency and accountability and believe that they are not open to scrutiny. The posture is one of the “Emperor”, and no one interrupts, troubles, or, worse yet heckles the King—fortunately Emperors and Kings are of the past, thanks to the people’s struggles for democracy. He, like those before him, will find out in 2020 how Guyanese voters treasure their young democracy.
It appears that these upper middle class sensibilities have been offended by the protest in the Chambers. Maybe those who have been so offended should take a look at the Mother of all Parliaments which often descends into loud cacophony, or, worse yet, in other parliaments where there are fist-cuffs and furniture throwing as recently seen in the Ugandan Parliament.
Is the government saying to the people that it can do as it wishes with a mere less than 1% of the vote and everyone must sit there and be polite like school children so that we can show that we were well brought like refined old QC boys?
I have read some letters encouraging the Speaker to discipline all 32 PPPC members. What I do know is despite the consistent unruly and disruptive behavior, especially in the 7th and 10th Parliaments by the then opposition, no PNC MP was ever disciplined. In fact, only 2 MPs, Dr. Cheddi Jagan and Ishahak Bashir have ever been disciplined over 50 years in the National Assembly, and, this was done by Speaker Sase Naraine.
Let’s see if the PPPC Members will once again be targets of an undemocratic National Assembly? But we can guarantee that silent we shall not be in the face of constant and consistent efforts to undermine our democratic values and rights.
Gail Teixeira, M.P.
Chief Whip Parliamentary Opposition