OPINION: Failure by Coalition to concede defeat makes it difficult to start debate on inclusive governance

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Leaders of the APNU/AFC at a previous political rally.

The following is an opinion piece by Dr Tara Singh

The failure to concede defeat despite the urging of various individuals and groups both national and international, makes it extremely difficult to discuss inclusive governance with a party (PNCR) that has shown no serious interest in the country’s Constitution, the rule of law, and its development and welfare. Rather, the PNCR’s neurotic pre-occupation is with power consolidation and retention. With such an embedded attitude, how could any well-intentioned party want to become part of an inclusive governance arrangement with the PNCR?

They (PNCR) has shown since December 2018 why the PPP/C, the smaller parties and the majority of Guyanese do not trust them. Apart from numerous events (NCM, constitutional abuses, etc), what was also powerful in people’s minds was the dismissal of 7000 sugar workers and the closure of 4 sugar estates. They (PNCR) had promised in the 2015 election campaign that sugar “is too big to fail” and that they would give sugar workers a 20 per cent pay raise. In addition, they promised rice farmers a rise in paddy price to $9000 per bag. None of those promises was fulfilled. These failures firmly demonstrate exclusionary rather than inclusive governance. The combination of these with other failures has also set in motion a precipitous decline in trust for the PNCR Administration by the majority of Guyanese.

I find it difficult to follow the existing debate on inclusive governance. However, this (inclusive governance) is operationalised, its foundation (trust) is lacking. Trust will take a long time to develop. There is a popular theory that a third political force could curb the excesses of the two major political parties, but the initial thrust in this direction, propelled by the AFC, gradually weakened and then collapsed. However, the emergence of smaller parties with many young people could revive the third force phenomenon. Inclusive governance at this point could place them at a disadvantage.

The PNCR operatives speak about inclusive governance, and yet none of them has produced a model. How can we, therefore, meaningfully debate something that is not properly defined and conceptualised?

The proponents in this inclusive governance debate should accept the following conditions first, and must also recognise the irreparable damage that the PNCR, in collusion with elements of GECOM (Mingo factor), has done to democracy and the national psyche. I begin with this caveat: The Guyanese people did not vote for Inclusive governance, whatever that might be, at the 2020 elections. Instead, they voted for a series of policies and programmes to move the country forward.

Proponents have failed:

  1. To produce their model or theoretical framework, if they have any, on inclusive governance.
  2. To show how inclusive governance is superior to the “winner takes all” (WTA) system. Why do Trinidad & Tobago and Suriname that have an almost similar demographic structure as Guyana, not embrace inclusive governance? None of these countries has an ethnic majority. Additionally, these countries recognise the importance of political competition in the furtherance of the healthy growth of democracy.
  3. To explain whether inclusive governance will operate only at the ministerial level rather than at all levels of governance, both central and local.
  4. To acknowledge that there must be a strong parliamentary Opposition to provide checks on legislative excesses. Their discussion is silent on this.
  5. To explain how the principle of collective responsibility, a bulwark of democracy, in Cabinet will be accomplished with the interplay of differing ideology and agenda.
  6. To acknowledge that Inclusive governance could lead to a one-party state and dictatorship.
  7. To explain why inclusive governance might be better than equality of access to opportunity? Why can’t a Government elected on the WTA system provide equality of access to opportunity?
  8. To explain how inclusive governance could narrow the perceived income equality among ethnic groups. How could ethnic groups other than Indians, Chinese and Portuguese become engaged in Private Sector activities? In 2015 some African leaders started the African Roundtable Chamber of Commerce. Does anyone know of its progress under the Granger Government?

My thoughts on inclusive governance are restricted to a preliminary understanding of inclusivity as gathered from the ongoing debate. Essentially, inclusive governance in the conception of proponents, covers inclusivity (of the major Opposition party) in ministerial positions, State Boards and Commissions. And maybe, also include some common agreement on policies and programmes. The existing debate does not focus on inclusivity in the civil service, the army, and the police. Neither does it include people and groups at the regional (ROs) and local levels (NDCs). Hence, the dire need for a model so as to allow for a constructive engagement.

Given the full control over the past five years of the State apparatus by the PNCR, with its unchallenged agenda and ideology, why hasn’t this party been able to advance the economic status of Africans (as well as other groups), apart from a small number of political investors and cronies? Under an inclusive governance arrangement when there will be stiff internal competition for resources, how could this system work better than the WTA?