Dr Rouf Ahmad Bhat wrote in the introduction to his Paper titled ‘Role of Opposition Party in Democracy’ (the International Journal of Science and Research) that, ‘The Opposition is as important as that of ruling party. They ensure that the acts of the ruling party are not detrimental to the interest of general public or nation at large.
The role of the Opposition party is not to oppose every decision of the ruling party. Rather, it is the duty of the Opposition party to support the ruling party for the acts that are in the interest of the nation. The Opposition parties play a very significant role in a democracy as representatives of the people. The Opposition act as watch dog of the system. In such countries where there is a two-party system in vogue, the Opposition party forms a shadow cabinet to exercise vigil over the performance of the Government.’
In a previous letter, I had stated that the PNC has never been a government ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’, and in this letter, I wish to submit that PNC has never been an Opposition which reflects the will of the people. In fact, it has been equally worse as an Opposition, if not more detrimental to this nation.
What the PNC did from 1961-1964 had set the trend which this nation can expect anytime the PNC is in Opposition. The Wismar massacre in May 1964 had set that tone, and since then Indians have been living in perpetual fear of reprisals any time the PNC is in Opposition. This reprisal is because they supported the PPP or are deemed to do so.
Since the 1992 General Elections, the APNU had been in Opposition for 23 years, and thereafter from August 2020, and they have continued to act against the interest of this nation, including their own members and supporters. An important point to note is that the PNC is the dominant political party in the Coalition, and it is the PNC which is the de facto Opposition, as it was the de facto party when in Government. It is always the PNC in power or out of power, the other parties, such as the AFC, simply did the biddings and were simply window dressing. These little pawns, completely devoid of any self-respect and dignity, hang on for dear life if even just to enjoy ostentatious lifestyle, which strained the Treasury.
It is an undeniable historical fact that the PNC never behaved as a responsible Opposition, and displayed this nefarious trait as soon as it lost an election. The PNC rigged all the elections: 1968, 1973, 1980 and 1985, and the Referendum of 1978; and for 5 long months, attempted to rig the 2020 Elections. Another undeniable fact is that whenever the PPP won an election, the PNC greeted this with mayhem, violence, burning, looting and even murder. What is notable is the fact that this trend started in 1961, when the PPP won that election by garnering more than double the votes won by the PNC. The PNC began its trade mark behaviour: there were mass demonstrations, a general strike, and severe and aggravated inter-racial violence piloted by the PNC.
This provided the British authorities with the excuse they needed just a few weeks after the election to suspend a legitimate government. They sent in the British troops, and the Governor declared a state of emergency. This was tried successfully again in 1998 when The Herdmanston Accord reduced the PPP’s term in office by 2 years just to quell the violence against the Indians.
The Indo-Guyanese ‘benefited’ from being the prime target of looting, burning and race-based violence during the period 1964 to 1992, when the PNC was in Government, but this began with renewed vigour after the 1992 Elections and lasted intermittingly for 23 years until 2015, and then raised its ugly head again after the PPP won the 2020 Elections.
The PPP supporters must pay dearly for voting their party into Government.
It is these 2 periods as the Opposition which highlight the ineptitude and incompetence of the PNC to serve the Guyanese people. There is no disputing the mayhem and violence which marked its tenure as the Opposition, but what is equally dangerous is the penchant of the PNC in opposition to work relentlessly to derail the socio-economic programmes and policies which were implemented to better the lives of Guyanese.
This began in earnest after the 2011 Elections, which saw the PPP as a minority Government. It must be recalled that the APNU had received 26 seats, the AFC 7 seats and the PPP/C 32 seats and this 1 seat majority was used to its fullest to hold this nation at ransom and to be the basis for the no-confidence motion in October 2014.
Unconscionable budget cuts saw the socio-economic stagnation of our dear country, as many developmental projects came under the ‘scissors’, which Nagamootoo gleefully executed year after year. These acts were detrimental to our socio-economic development, and should never have been done. This is not what a responsible opposition should have done. But hit is the trademark of the PNC in opposition. They never supported the Government, and their foremost concern was to get into power, feather their own nests and rape the Treasury.
Fast forward to 2020, the Opposition has already begun to unleash mayhem and violence, as was evidenced by its protests of being ‘robbed’ at the 2020 Election polls, and the encouraging of violence against Indians on the West Coast of Berbice.
Indians were once again the prime target of these acts of terrorism, which were supported by the Opposition. With four more years to go until the 2025 Elections, it is anyone’s guess what is in store, especially when the Opposition Leader is already making threats of civil unrest.
In a democracy, an Opposition party should play a very significant role ‘as representatives of the people’. The Opposition must ‘act as watchdog of the system’, but in Guyana, the Opposition acts as a predator. If we can do a bit of transposition to Abraham Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg speech, ‘this nation must have a new birth of freedom, and the Opposition must be an Opposition of the people, by the people and for the people’ We cannot afford to perish as a nation because the Opposition is self-serving. The Opposition must change its course.
I encourage Mr Harmon to read Dr Bhat’s Paper. In the last election, the APNU/AFC was elected by the people as the country’s Opposition, and they must honour that office, not dishonour it.