Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Are the opposition parties really interested in discussions?

Guyana Chronicle: NO one could deny that in a democracy, it is the inalienable right of both the government and the opposition to support or reject any piece of legislation or bill that would have been laid in the National Assembly.

So far the opposition parties in Guyana have been abusing our democracy in their pursuit to hold the government to ransom, something which President Donald Ramotar had warned about.

Since the opening of the Tenth Parliament, their actions in and out of the National Assembly have determinedly focused on their mission.

Their machinations are no doubt spurred on, simply because of their one-seat advantage in the National Assembly. They have used this clout in the House before and successfully stalled the passage of two Financial Papers that were brought before the House by the government in the first sitting of the current Parliament.

This situation has come about because of the hung parliament, although the governing party had won the highest bloc of votes in the last regional and general elections.

We refer to meetings shortly after the elections among President Donald Ramotar and the two opposition parties in which parties agreed to the tripartite discussions and for consensual agreement on matters of national importance.

However, very surreptitiously they have honoured this agreement in the breach, and their conduct so far smacks of incivility and arrogance.

Now, with the government just out of its honeymoon period (first hundred days in office), the Ministry of Finance is working feverishly to bring out the National Budget with estimates of capital and current expenditures for the next fiscal year.

The budget is a ‘big deal’ for any country, and keeping with its principle to engage the opposition in discussions in relation to the budget, Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh has confirmed that, contrary to opposition leader David Granger that the opposition was not being consulted, it was Carl Greenidge, Granger’s representative, who had asked for deferral of the meeting.

The Finance Minister took pains to point out that, on Monday March 5, he wrote to the representatives of the various parliamentary parties inviting them to discussions on economic matters including the budget, on March 7.

While Gerhard Ramsaroop of the AFC responded and asked for a minor shift in the proposed time, Winston Jordan of the APNU asked for a shift in the date for the following week on account of the unavailability of Mr. Carl Greenidge.

In response to Jordan’s request which was sent on Greenidge’s behalf, the minister proposed an alternative date the following week to which both the AFC and APNU’s representatives have since confirmed their availability, while Carl Greenidge also of the APNU is yet to confirm his availability.

It is therefore unfortunate for Mr. Granger to misleadingly suggest that the government has made no efforts to convene a meeting. It is also disgusting to note that yet one week after the invitation had been issued, Mr. Granger is still unaware of the invitation.

The people hope that David Granger has not fallen into a six-month sleep like Kumbhkaran in the Hindu Epic, Ramayana, who slept for six months straight, while war was being waged against his own brother.

The people are convinced that the government is looking forward to the consultative discussions with the opposition. This is extremely important on matters of grave concern and which will have a direct influence on the lives of the people of this country, like the national budget.

Mr. Granger must understand that the government has a job to do for all the people if this country is to move forward. And whether or not they participate in the meetings prior to the drafting of the budget, the government would be in order to go ahead and prepare the document for presentation to the parliament.

When this happens, the opposition may use their one-seat advantage to block the passage of the budget. But if such a thing surfaces, it could be a great setback, as the country would be thrown into a constitutional crisis which would demand the holding of fresh elections.

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