Jul 27, 2017
The much-anticipated meeting of the APNU Executive Committee took place on Saturday July 22, 2017. This meeting arose out of an engagement between the WPA and President Granger on July 17 in the wake of Dr. Rupert Roopnarine’s removal from the Ministry of Education. WPA had drawn attention to the fact that there was no APNU Executive Committee meeting in nearly two years.
The meeting on Saturday was attended by all the partners of the APNU — the Guyana Action Party (GAP), the Justice for All Party (JFAP), the National Front Alliance (NFA), the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) and the Working Peoples Alliance (WPA). The major agenda item was the consideration of a report commissioned by President Granger in his capacity as APNU chairman. The report documented and summarized the findings of wide-ranging consultations with APNU member parties on their assessment of intra-partnership relations and the general condition of the APNU since the change of government in 2015.
The discussions were frank and open with representatives from all the parties taking the opportunity to weigh in on the issues arising from the report. WPA’s intervention was two-fold. First, we critiqued the general performance of the government thus far and in the process pointed to what we consider as the main areas of weakness and suggested solutions in that regard. Second, we documented a range of WPA grievances which had accumulated over a long period and which led to a breakdown in relations between our party and the government.
We feel that we were able to impress upon our partners the urgency of reinvigorating the APNU; the importance of ensuring that all partners are treated with respect; and that inclusivity must go beyond words to incorporate meaningful and timely consultations and active participation in framing the general direction of the government and shaping policies consistent with that direction.
WPA stressed the importance of self-critique within the partnership and re-affirmed our party’s commitment to balancing participation in government with our traditional role of questioning the management of power and fidelity to the defence and protection of the most vulnerable in our society. In the process, we affirmed our right to independent thought and expression which may at times differ with those of our partners and the governing coalition.
The meeting agreed to hold more frequent APNU Leadership Council and Executive meetings. It was also decided that APNU fora would be created to facilitate the parties’ involvement in policy-making which would serve as a guide for the government. The president also proposed the setting up of five councils which would be responsible for shaping the APNU preparation for Local and General Elections. Finally, a mechanism was put in place for addressing the WPA’s grievances.
WPA held a General Members and Supporters Meeting on Sunday July 23. The meeting reaffirmed WPA’s commitment to a multi-racial solution to the country’s overarching problems in the interest of the security of all its citizens, especially those of the working peoples, the poor and the powerless in our society.
That WPA continued participation in the government must be premised on a commitment to preserve the party’s Rodneyite identity, its independent voice, its right to critique the performance of the government and its ability to influence the government and state to use the country’s common resources to directly influence the lives of Guyanese across the political and ethnic spectrum in tangible ways.
There was consensus that the party must continue to be the voice of reason and self-critique within the governing coalition. The meeting recommended that the WPA should refresh and broaden its ideological and general political orientation to serve as the core of a National Renewal Movement aimed at mobilizing broad sections of the Guyanese population to arrest the drift in the society and help restore hope for a better future for the broad masses of people, especially the most vulnerable among us.
The meeting decided that the rebuilding of the party should begin forthwith with the reactivating of its key organs, reenergizing existing members and the recruitment of new members and allies. It was also decided that the party should begin groundings in communities across the country to hear from the people about their collective problems and to engage in public education on national issues.
The party was also mandated to begin immediate work among the youth with the aim of empowering them to become more involved in the political life of the country. Finally, the “Ministerial Situation” involving the current WPA representative in Cabinet and the National Assembly was discussed. Members expressed their views on the matter and recommended that the party continues to consult with Dr. Roopnarine on the matter.
WPA is concerned at the growing crisis in the prison system. We feel that the recent jailbreaks are symptomatic of a breakdown in the administration of the penal system and the larger problem of alienation and disarray in the wider society. We, therefore, urge the government to, as a matter of priority, do everything necessary to halt the drift and restore order in the prison system.
WPA believes that some of the root causes of the recent prison outbreaks lie (a) in the overcrowding of the prisons; (b) in the abominable conditions in the prisons; (c) poor remuneration of prison officers; (d) the lengthy period of incarceration of persons while awaiting trial; and (e) the fact that a small minority of officers have become compromised.
Towards this end the party supports the efforts of the government to address overcrowding. We join with others who have called for a review of the practice of remanding or jailing citizens for simple non-violent offences. We call on government to address the issue of better working conditions for prison officers and improve the wages and salaries of prison officers. These areas must be treated as top priority. We also call on the authorities to mount an immediate campaign aimed at ridding the prison service of corrupt officers and re-educating the force about the importance of integrity.
Having said the above, the WPA wishes to salute the overwhelming majority of officers who put their lives on the line every day. We express condolences to the family and relatives of Odinga Wickham who lost his life in the line of duty during the first prison break. WPA also commends the members of the police force for the restraint showed on the day of the prison-break and the subsequent apprehension of the escapees thus far.
Finally, WPA reiterates its position that there is a linkage between poverty and alienation among the country’s youth and our growing crime situation. In this regard, we intend to use our voice within and outside of government to advocate for more social programs aimed at bringing our young people into the formal productive sectors.