–and coalition decision-making
UNLESS people are lying to me, the daily complaints and expressions of frustration I hear from people who voted and/or supported the present Government suggest that the larger coalition of forces which brought the Government to power may be falling apart, or have already fallen apart.
Only this past week, a group of overseas-based supporters of the Government complained that they had been snubbed by the President, a charge that was stoutly denied by the latter. From what I know of the President, he is not one to deliberately snub people, but the fact of the matter is that these people feel snubbed. This suggests that a disconnect somewhere is not being addressed.
One of the constant complaints is the inability to contact ministers, who, prior to assuming office, were quite accessible. At first I dismissed these complaints as frivolous; after all, these are high Government officials, who can’t take every call or accommodate every meeting. But on the other hand, the people who complain to me are often friends and comrades of the ministers.
As an aside, some people think that I ‘play’ this unique role of oversighting the Government while being part of it. They think I have ready access to these ministers. The few times I have met with ministers: to make representation on behalf of communities and groups of individuals — except in the cases of the Education Minister and two other ministers — I have had to go through the formal channels.
We live in a small society, where high Government officials can be seen driving around the place; so when accessibility becomes a problem, there must be something deeper at play. I have heard, for example, from coalition supporters and members, of their not being able to secure audience with ministers. Many complain that those with ready access to ministers and Government jobs were nowhere to be seen during the “hard guava days.” They complain that party members who were in the trenches taking blows for 23 years are now being sidelined and ignored, while the new “big wigs” are running things, often with an attitude of entitlement.
While I do not know the extent of this problem, I know that it exists. I am against giving people jobs simply because they belong to the governing coalition; but it is quite human and normal for people who sacrificed for a cause to expect to be rewarded in some form when the success of that cause comes in the form of office. The issue of neglect is real, even if in some instances it’s exaggerated.
I think there is a larger problem. This is a new Government, and it is quite inexperienced in the art of governance, so its officers must be given some slack in that regard. But as inexperienced as they are, sections of the Government have brought into the halls of power some of the bad habits of the old political culture. Some ministers, from all accounts, behave as though they do not owe their positions to the sacrifices and struggles of others.
In any government, there would be technocrats who never made tangible or intangible sacrifices for the cause that made the government possible. But they must remember that they are the servants of the people who made the sacrifices ether through direct resistance or through the day-to-day deprivations they endured for 23 years and more.
I have argued before that a government whose only functioning decision-making council is a fifteen-member Cabinet is bound to become out of touch at some point. If a small group of people charged with guiding a country listen only to themselves week after week, then they come to believe that they are the country. There is urgent need for the Cabinet to hear from others. The Cabinet, no matter how talented its members are, should not be the sole initiator, developer and judge of what is good for the country.
Take, for example, the showdown that is brewing between the AFC’s Sherrod Duncan and the PNC in the Georgetown City Council. Duncan has indicated that he intends to challenge the PNC’s Chase-Green for the Mayor’s post. Duncan says he has the support of his party, but the AFC leader says the party is not interfering with the City Council’s affairs —- a case of retail politics for the masses.
I think the AFC’s leadership has had to live with Duncan. He embodies the political ambition of the AFC, but his decision to rock the coalition’s boat at City Hall runs counter to the AFC’s strategy at the national level. Intra-coalition competition is not abnormal, but if there are functioning coalition councils outside of Government, matters will more likely be resolved before they reach tipping point. A reasonable solution would be to rotate the mayoralty between the PNC and the AFC. I say PNC deliberately, because the APNU is not a player in these matters of power. That’s the way it is.
More of Dr. Hinds ‘writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com