Oct 27, 2017
The Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo, has said that it was previously agreed between himself and the President, that should the third list of nominees for the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission be rejected, a bipartisan committee would be established to find a solution to the impasse.
In fact, this ‘gentleman’s agreement’ formed part of the joint press released which had been issued between the government and the opposition.
There is therefore a public record to substantiate the claim by the Leader of the Opposition. The question is why has the President not kept his word?
The President is being accused of acting in bad faith, not only because of the unilateral appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, but also because of the dishonoring of this ‘gentleman’s agreement’ which was allegedly made and which was made public.
When a President and a government stand accused of acting in bad faith, it creates an atmosphere of mistrust. The mistrust leads to a loss of credibility and a lack of confidence. There is a sense of betrayal when agreements are not honored or when people are made to feel that they were victims of political mamaguy.
The bad faith, however, is not confined only to the government’s dealings with the opposition leader. The Guyana Public Service Union has remained mum over the unilateral imposition, yet again, of wages increases for public servants. It has not said how it feels about this as yet. But surely it must also feel, like the Leader of the Opposition, that it is dealing with an untrustworthy government. A government which does not honor its word cannot be trusted.
The union must certainly feel that the government has yet again acted in bad faith. There have only been a few meetings between the government and the union over wages agreement this year.
These can hardly be said to constitute any meaningful negotiations. No agreement was reached. Yet, in flagrant breach of the collective bargaining process, the government has gone ahead and imposed salary increases. If this is not bad faith, what is?
The most egregious example of bad faith, however, has been the government’s dealings with the Working People’s Alliance. Following a flare up earlier this year when Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine was removed as Minister of Education, the WPA called attention to what it said was the fact the APNU had not met since the elections of May 2015. The WPA complained about not being involved in government decision-making.
The WPA raised a fuss and managed to get a commitment from the government that this situation would be rectified. Well, it has not been rectified because the WPA clearly could not have been consulted on the decision of the President to appoint a Chairperson of GECOM.
The AFC’s Chairman was said to have said on television that the decision was the President’s prerogative. But it was the very President who had stated that he had to consult with his political partners on the list submitted by Jagdeo.
The WPA has not said whether it was consulted on the third list submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. But what is certain is that it was not consulted on the President’s choice. Here again bad faith was at work.
But what about other issues within the government? Has the WPA been consulted on these issues? Has the WPA been consulted on government’s plans on other matters of state? Has it been consulted on the Budget which is soon to be read? The WPA has to consider its future within the government.
The AFC has done so already. The AFC has clearly decided that it is comfortable being kicked around by the APNU. It sees no problem being a political football. It has shamelessly defended the President’s actions on which it was not consulted.
The AFC boasted in 2011 that it held the balance of power within parliament. The AFC now has lost its balance.
In the meantime, the President faces a credibility crisis in the eyes of the opposition. It is not likely that they will take anything he says seriously anymore. As far as they are concerned, he has acted in bad faith and they have no confidence in his word anymore.
But what about the WPA? How can it continue to sit within the government given the disregard with which it has been shown? Or is the WPA comfortable becoming, like the AFC, a doormat of the APNU?