Originally Posted by Mitwah:
LET US ACT CAUTIOUSLY ON THIS POWER-SHARING MODEL
May 28, 2011 | By KNews | Filed Under AFC Column, Features / Columnists
By Khemraj Ramjattan
Sometime back in my Political Science class a South African lecturer was dealing with racism and violence, making a passionate plea for apartheid’s end and the emergence of a united South Africa. A student interrupted: “Professor, you really think there can be one South Africa with white and black living together?”
The lecturer started his response thus: “When ethnic groups with deep enmities cannot go on living together….”, and after a pause thunderously continued, “they go on living together. They have absolutely no other choice!”
This reality, this truth is so self-evident. It has total application for us Guyanese. We, whatever our ethnicities, are here to stay, are here to work, play and live together. We have no choice. There is never going to be a separate, partitioned state for Amerindians, another for Indo-Guyanese and another for Afro-Guyanese. Just like there is one South Africa for all South Africans.
There is another self-evident truth about Guyana. It has become a constitutional democracy which has as its bedrock the ‘one man one vote’ electoral principle which was fought for so hard and through which a representative government is elected for a constitutionally stipulated tenure of five years – just so as in South Africa.
I may also add that all the pre-conditions, at a minimal level, which buttress a democratic consolidation do exist today in Guyana. These pre-conditions include freedom to associate, to express opinions, to form political parties, to compete for the public’s vote, to access the High Courts to preserve and observe the rule of law, having a civil service that by and large is dependable, although in dire need of modernization and reform.
Yet for some reason or other, things seem not to ever go right in this country. Why is Guyana without a fuller peace and a greater happiness?
There are myriad places and sources and reasons we can point to in answering this question. The answer lies not in one singular cause. And of course it will vary and be given a different tilt and nuance, depending on which side of the ethnic/political spectrum you come from.
But surely all who now seek to proffer answers must, with all sincerity, realise that a large part of the answer resides in how we resolve the ethnic security dilemma which has forever been with us, and which unfortunately has not been satisfactorily tackled, notwithstanding constitutional reform and plenty rhetoric from our political elites.
Though we have become once again a country where ‘one man one vote’ counts, this same electoral fundamental is what appears to be the problem. How ironic and paradoxical! ‘One man one vote’, in the context of an ethnic distribution which sees Indo-Guyanese in the majority and against the background of a well-known and predominantly ethnic voting pattern at election time, arguably means the potential permanent shutting out from power of other minorities. But how is this democratic dilemma to be solved in an ethnically divided society?
Firstly, I must immediately acknowledge the effort of Ravi Dev who first frontally dealt with this question in very explicit terms, and came up with federalism as a possible solution.
Unfortunately, federalism has failed to gain credence and acceptability in the minds of Guyanese.
Secondly, I hate to re-start once again altering constitutional provisions in any fundamental way to accommodate power-sharing at the Executive level in this political environment of maximum distrust and suspicion between the leaderships of the political parties which matter most. The PPP’s political top brass did not trust a Ramjattan. Now neither does that party trust a Nagamootoo nor a Chanderpaul! How then will it trust a Corbin or a Granger? Let us be real.
Power-sharing will not work in the context of the existing political elites in the PPP and PNC; and, the distrustful environment.
Moreover, and this was supported by no less a personage than ex-President Hoyte, a power-sharing political system will not be truly democratic because there will be an absence of that genuine, loyal and sincerely robust Opposition. The absence or dilution of such an Opposition will detract from the accountability of that power-sharing Government. In my view it will become a juggernaut, far more dangerous than anything we have presently or had in the past. Hence, this particular configuration in our constitutional design I have serious questions about. And then again, it may not be enduring.
I wish to tender to the proponents of this possibility the advice of a distinguished scholar and politician:
“…………power-sharing will only work if it is based on a voluntary agreement between the parties concerned (whatever form it takes). Parties and groups outside the process of power sharing should not therefore ipso facto, face any legal or constitutional disadvantages in the pursuit of their political rights, including their rights to challenge power sharing solution.
I believe that constitutional recognition of this is fundamental. We must safeguard against the power-sharing process becoming either “legalized one party rule” or unintentionally creating a national mood in which those who do not share the view that a government of national unity is desireable are seen ipso facto as “anti national”, “destabilisers” or “treasonable”.
I believe that the collective experience of all the governments we have had in Guyana since Independence should lead us all to be very cautious about supporting a constitutional review process in which legitimizing a PPP/C and PNC coalition comes to be presented, and publicly endorsed, as the only solution to Guyana’s problems……..”
Words indeed which caution us to tread cautiously; words, believe it or not, which come from Professor Clive Thomas of the W.P.A.
AGAIN, a brillant piece from a brilliant public servant. Ladies and Gentlemen - Mr. Ramjattan - Leader of the AFC