Last week Guyanese at home and abroad were treated to the sight of the opposition holding up placards and loudly disrupting the President’s address in parliament, to protest what they see as his unilateral appointment of Justice James Patterson as the new GECOM Chairman. The appointment reveals to us how neither of the main political parties has been able to get their act together and get constitutional reform sorted for once, a massive failure on the part of our political representatives that undoubtedly produces situations and standoffs like this one. We are also faced with the genuine absence of consultative and participatory processes (this should be the default, as it is it is not even an exception to the rule), a vacuum that can and does lead to politically cynical, indefensible actions, however much some may want to argue that they are constitutionally legitimate.
In the aftermath of the parliamentary protest, led by former President and now presidential pensioner Bharrat Jagdeo proudly holding up a sign calling for the government to stop deviding (sic) people, there have been all kinds of statements as to whether parliament should be the place for these kinds of protests. Needless to say, one is struck by how swiftly the wind blows in all directions, and one yearns for the consistency of our elders – like Eusi Kwayana – who didn’t blow from one side and then change their tune the next morning when it suited them. Reading through the Hansard in a library this morning on the parliamentary debate following the July 2012 shootings of Lindeners by law enforcement officials, I stopped short at this intervention on the floor in the middle of Anil Nandlall’s response to a motion laid before parliament by then leader of the opposition David Granger:
Ms. Manickchand: Sir, there is interfering heckling coming from the gallery and I remember Your Honour making a decision about this before. I do not think that we can allow ourselves to degenerate. This is the highest House, please, Your Honour.
At the time Priya Manickchand was Minister of Education in the PPP/C administration. Nothing in the statement above suggests a qualification. It seems to me to be a rather categorical defence of the need to respect parliament as the supreme organ of the land.
Here too is the Speaker of the House cautioning then AFC parliamentarian, now Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who raised a placard (presumably in protest at the then PPP/C government at the time) following David Granger’s motion:
Mr. Speaker: There shall be no placards in the House.
Who benefits from our forgetting when the shoe is on the other foot?
I’m not getting into the highly stalemated and deeply divisive debate concerning the protests of last week. In his overseas visit (let us not forget how critical diaspora support is to these political parties), President Granger has already reportedly condemned those protesting as vulgarians. Guyanese should ask themselves, what is truly vulgar? Perhaps it is that parliament consists of one side. Not an APNU side or a PPP side, but a side they actually both belong to, a side that is anti the Guyanese working people. All this demonstrating and remonstrating among themselves should tell us is that here are our politicians who seem to blow with the wind, making politics a zero-sum game for ordinary Guyanese. Meanwhile, they have their eyes on power. It’s really time to wake up.