Arriving from May 6th
Stabroek News’ article “Granger plans to meet PSC on concerns over budget cuts”
in which Mr. Granger reportedly “says he has agreed in principle to meet the Private Sector Commission (PSC) over its concerns about the $21 billion budget cuts but intends to take its request to the executives of the APNU before confirming,” the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) wishes to make its position and concerns known since the PSC has specifically requested that the meeting be held among APNU, themselves, the government and the PPP. In the eyes of the public this may be perceived as an act to bring the APNU and PPP together in negotiation and dividing the opposition.
The invitation by the PSC to the Leader of the Opposition or Leader of the APNU, ignores the leading fact that the achievement in the budgetary cuts were not singularly done by the APNU, would not have been possible with APNU alone and most importantly, were not even initiated by APNU. The cuts on the budget were the acts of the combined opposition with the support of their constituents. The budget and its cuts hold the interest of all in society, including Labour, and the AFC. It is timely and significant in a society where government has lost all sense of reasonableness and ignores demands for good governance and accountability of the nation’s financial resources.
Any discussion of the impact of these budgetary cuts or effort to help the nation understand and appreciate said cuts should not be done at the exclusion of the AFC and should also take on board all major stakeholders. It would therefore be most prudent for the Leader of the Opposition to convene such meetings with a view of determining a way forward relative to the decisions taken. It is important to ensure that the people’s resources are managed in a way that would restore good governance and accountability.
The government has shown its hand that their strategy to manage the affairs of the State will continue to be efforts to divide and rule, to plunder, exploit, and misrepresent issues in the hope of escaping accountability. The PSC’s effort to engage the government and APNU and/or the Leader of the Opposition with the non-involvement of the AFC and other stakeholders, would be an act of giving assent to a politics of divide and rule that has disregarded laws and principles, devastated this country, undermined peaceful co-existence and equitable development.
The Leader of the Opposition in this new parliamentary dispensation has the opportunity to influence positive changes and success of the combined opposition in restoring accountability and governance. This has to start by respecting the foundational and supreme law of the land, the Constitution; universal declarations and international conventions, which give meaning to our existence as a nation and our relationship with each other in achieving the goals set out in these instruments that we subscribe to.
The position of Leader of the Opposition is a constitutional one that requires representing issues on behalf of the society, which includes consulting with the AFC, Labour and other stakeholders on matters that will affect their wellbeing. As per the International Labour Organisation (ILO) tripartite structure, Labour, Employer and Government sit as equals at the decision-making table to deliberate on societal matters. PSC is representative of the employer. This is a mandatory relationship established since 1966 when Guyana joined the ILO. Under the Jagdeo leadership this tenet was treated with contempt for the first time and Labour holds the new parliament accountable to bringing an end to such violations, promoting greater consultation as per constitution and international agreements, and promoting an environment of transparency.
The combined opposition in tandem with the cabinet must ensure that the following Articles of our Constitution that speaks to these relationships are upheld and treated as sacred.
Article 13- “The principal objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.”
Article 38 -“It is the duty of the State, co-operatives, trade unions, other socioeconomic organisations and the people through sustained and disciplined endeavours to achieve the highest possible levels of production and productivity and to develop the economy in order to ensure the realization of the rights set out in this Chapter.”
Article 149C- “No person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of participating through co-operatives, trade unions, civic or socio-economic organisations of a national character, in the management and decision-making processes of the State.”
If one lesson is learnt from violating the tenets of the Constitution, it is the repercussion from Region 10 that emerged from closed door engagement and disregard for the consultative process. The recent Budget cuts voted for by the combined opposition would best be discussed in an open and transparent atmosphere where all major stakeholders can vest their concerns. The present efforts seen in the media to establish the PPP as a separate decision making entity from the PPP, this effort to now tie them into discussions with one section of the opposition in parliament is viewed as serious cause for concern for its potential to undermine opposition unity.
In May 2011, Donald Ramotar in defending his position of appointment as Adviser to the Bharat Jagdeo regime stated, “I am the General Secretary of the PPP and the PPP was elected to the government.” This underpins the relationship between the PPP and the government and hence at this stage society expects that any further discussions, and negotiations by the Leader of the Opposition or the combined Opposition held outside of parliament following the recent parliamentary decisions and budget cuts will be had with the major stakeholders and people of Guyana since the PPP through the cabinet has already been engaged and can be briefed, and consulted by its cabinet ministers.
GTUC will be monitoring very closely APNU’s response to the PSC, whether it meets with the PSC in combination with the PPP or with the PSC as a separate stakeholder. Any discussion, agreement or negotiation emanating from any meeting in its proposed format will be seriously scrutinized as will the participants. This nation and those who give the opposition its strength must ensure that the gains they fought for in the 2011 are not eroded by PPP subterfuge. It is our right and responsibility to do so.