Symbolically, it implies dissent.
But, in actuality, it was a demonstration of singular bad manners and inbred incivility.
The dividing line between stubborn ambition and professional principle was demonstrated in a show of selfish politicking as Bharaat Jagdeo led his now signature exodus from Parliamentary sessions he is not enjoying, ahead of President Granger’s address on October 13th 2016 -making it some six times (at least) since this new administration took office that he has disrupted the business of Parliament with his flamboyant exodus.
And, that he is able to convince the other members of the Opposition to be equally as crass and disrespectful to the highest office in the land suggests that the politics from this side of the aisle remain a show of partisan entrenchment at the expense of the level of patriotism that should place country first.
The typical argument is that he’s doing nothing new… other Oppositions’ have done so in the past. But this is exactly why it is a practice that should be condemned for its partisan partiality. Walking out by any party is not only a vote against the Country’s Constitution, which designates Parliament as the arena in which politicians effect procedures for governance, it is a calculated decision to dis-serve the people they represent because walking out still earns them a day’s pay for not working.
We understand that, being the leader of the Opposition, his job is to Oppose but that has to be done in the vein of holding the government accountable and opposing because his team is presenting a viable alternative that will be beneficial to the nation and not party.
Inasmuch as it has been weaponized by this sitting Opposition, Parliament is a body that has established etiquette and decorum. Typically, practices embody a conduct that enhances the dignity of this entity so the conduct of members should not be contrary to the prestige or derogatory to the standing that is inherent in the country’s law-making chamber. What exactly constitutes contrary or unbecoming behavior is not exhaustively defined – at least for common citizens to interpret with ease – but what is known is that there is a Committee that has jurisdiction over the behavior of Parliamentarians, so it seems quite odd that Bharaat Jagdeo and team continue to drop in and out of Parliament without redress.
Debate is the generally accepted vehicle to analysis and implementation in Parliament and may well be considered a ritual imbued with symbolic significance. But the bottom line is that it should conclude with a decision that effects improvement for the citizens. After all, this is what should be the subject of these debates, the benefactors of every Parliamentary session not a Party or its leader.
It is reprehensible, inexcusable that Parliamentary sessions are characterized by the mean-spiritedness that is displayed on the floor of this prestigious body and shamefully, it drives the larger narrative of the institution of politics in Guyana. Disruption is a violation to the principle of debate and by extension mars the legitimacy of legislation that comes on the back of conduct unbecoming, implicature and slanted innuendo, that are now staples in this chamber. Indeed, disruption in productive measure could be seen as a crucial aspect of the performance of deliberation and representation in parliamentary debates. But this is not the case in this Eleventh Parliament in Guyana.
The Opposition has entered Parliament with the express purpose of promoting an ideological agenda strictly for partisan and not national purpose. Jagdeo has proffered, in a smorgasbord of terminology, pejoratives and invectives that his disruptions are actually work since preventing normal parliamentary functioning is a legitimate means to hold the government accountable. It is a convoluted method of thinking that is not only self serving by helps to keep him as his party’s headliner and interminably in the minds of those who would vote for him.
Kerfuffle and confuse….
There is a stark difference between tactics and strategy.
For Jagdeo to feign disgust over this current Administration’s “overreach” is a savage anomaly considering the tentacles his government had – from extended involvement in the minutia of daily living, to influencing law enforcement and reassigning a government official with links to multiple murders to depress the trail of the investigation which may have led to ….well, common sense tells us what the Commission of Inquiry failed to find.
That is overreach.
That right there.
This time, this October 13th 2016, he said that he led the traipsing out of Parliament ahead of the President’s address themed “Consensus and Compromise” because he felt it was a historic recall of partisan rhetoric.
The transcript of that speech actually showed that it was a recall of life under the Jagdeo regime that illustrated, graphically, the bloodshed and drug trafficking that dominated his presidency. One could understand why he would be embarrassed to sit through a recount of the ugly history that is his legacy; a history that should be recounted with all of the nasty bits left in.
Understandably, this places Jagdeo on loop defensive. His sashaying out of Parliament with the long, loud howls of outrage was a perverse way of distracting the people from listening to the Presidential address – an act that should be encouraged, considered as part of civic duty, if the people want to remain abreast of what their employees- the politicians – are doing on their dollar. Several anticipated changes have, apparently, become casualties of a this non functioning Parliament and heads collectively shake in dismay as this Opposition is allowed, without abatement, to choose disruption and disorder in the name of demanding accountability.
Guyanese have been conditioned to accept routine incursions on their political rights, subtle infusions on how governance should be accepted – that ultimately became calluses that stayed in the nation’s political psyche. It is a condition that can be ascribed to emotional abuse- this time of a political nature.
Yet, to assume Mr. Jagdeo is a common rabble rouser would be to make the mistake that his actions are mere antics. Take nothing that he has done at face value. There was calculus in the gap created between the government and the people during his regime.
Fear, downtroddenness, hopelessness make for a malleability that fuels a dictator’s rise. By design, the rhetoric was incessant. Softening the people by constantly reassuring them that the government is theirs tends to dull their acuity, weary their drive for improvement so that the dictatorship eases up on them gradually, almost insensibly, with every progressive encroachment being deemed a combat measure for some sort of crisis, a temporary fix to avert impending calamity…only that these measures stayed long past the time when the alleged crises were averted, became woven in to a permanence that established a wall of government – on one side politicians serving this Jagdeo to protect their livelihood and the other side people so broken they merely towed the line.
Many were not pro Jagdeo but they weren’t anti him with any significant conviction or definitive fervor.
His was an Orwellian replica… understanding that one does not establish a dictatorship to safe guard a revolution but makes the revolution to safe guard the dictatorship…the object of power is power ( George Orwell 1984) . His revolution was race and he had a 51% Indian population to massage into favoring him by reaching way back into the guts of civil disruption, that chronic illness of our nation that never goes away, that menaces in silence, waiting to be retrieved by those with unbridled, hegemonic ambition.
Like all the other times, Opposition Leader Jagdeo’s storming out of parliament fell under the category of sideshow. Only, this time, this October 13th 2016, it confirmed what we long had ascribed to it – denial – that fortress to which those with records they are not so proud of, retreat.
There is hardly a charge that could be leveled against Bharrat Jagdeo that could not be proven with hard, existential facts and if it cannot, it wouldn’t be because the charge is wrong but expressly because the evidence has been destroyed or mutated beyond the point of recognition.
It is easy to measure the performance of governments. Some leading indicators are Gross Domestic Output, non seasonal job creation and a strong dollar. The success of these measurements is captured by the Failed/Fragile State Index (FSI) conducted by the internationally recognized Fund For Peace States. Concomitant with this is the Social Progress Index (SPI) which addresses elements like personal safety, environmental quality and tolerance and inclusion.
Where the data is available, Guyana’s best performance at the FSI was categorized High Warning….
There is no data captured under the SPI but that may be because the PPP government machinists, aware of the rubbish heap that once adorned the city line and its open spaces, the number of home invasions, murders that remain unsolved and the employment ratio of those hired for government and corporate jobs who were of a specific ethnic persuasion, decided against participating in this information gathering to avoid being formally documented as having failed at the International Social Progress level as well.
By any metric, successive Administrations under PPP governance failed ignominiously and the years from August 1999 through May 2015 are particularly noteworthy, especially from 2011 when its politics was shamelessly, overtly, racist.
Bharaat Jagdeo is no political enigma. He was chosen by past leaders and groomed to take the helm of his party; anointed successor, having been determined to be the person with the requisite character to represent its ideology and sustain its course to ethnic dominance. What was not factored in to that equation was the self-infatuated, paranoid, grandiose element of his character and his dynastic ambitions.
And let’s not understate his ability to stay relevant. He has managed to pair his penchant for power with the lower parts of the psyche of his party – the part that is fueled by rabid racist rhetoric. This and the docility, the servile nature of those whom he over lords, have created the perfect environment for him to establish a literal bully pulpit, from which, with hair-trigger propensity, he often times unleashes a lexicon of excoriating words intended to publicly demean and contain those whom he overlords.
His temper, his rages and his vindictiveness couch a byword for his legendary bullying and offer a peek into why grown men cower and others whimper when Jagdeo goes in to one of his fits. He is a master of control, possessing vocal tones that range from soft acquiescence to hissing condemnation; a dubious statesman who flaunts his power with the serene confidence of a man who knows that he instills more fear than he does respect and he prefers it that way.
This is the leader of the opposition that led the walk out from parliament like pied piper -as his opposition quickly took their places behind him in a grotesque conga line of political dissension flouncing back on to the public square to declare another day’s work not done.
And he left, again, with eloquent silence from the government side of the aisle…the side that says disrespect will not be tolerated in Parliament but gives Jagdeo a season pass for this purpose.
It’s been eighteen months since the historic coalition ascended to office and extended the olive branch of peace and unity in the name of country to the Opposition. The move, magnanimous in itself, was seen as one that was as imperative as it was strategic given the socio political moat that was dug during the governance of the People’s Progressive Party to separate Indo and Afro Guyanese.
But President Granger may have over-estimated the utility of personalized diplomacy. Jagdeo has made a visceral rejection of working with the Coalition Government, has disregarded the polity of the transition that should take place, barring a coup… all of which impinge on the Democracy that the Constitution dictates.
Whether Mr. Jagdeo knows it or not, whether President Granger has made it clear or not, the Opposition is not a social club with an exclusive agenda. It is a constitutionally recognized entity of government, an integral part of the country’s political machine and especially since it is on the government payroll, it is accountable for its actions and has an obligation to deliver on its contracted services.
There were several critical undertakings that had been started by the People’s Progressive Party, PPP, like the fiber optic telecommunications and the specialty hospital. These are all germane to improved services for the nation. Mr. Jagdeo has outlined in speeches abroad and at home that his government has application-ready plans for national improvement. Especially because they were developed during the time of PPP governance, these plans should be considered as proprietary to the nation who paid these politicians salaries during their development. Patriotism has to rise above partisanship here. Positive economic performance and social development rely heavily on all politicians pitching in for country and not party and where there is already groundwork, it should not be ignored for ideological pride or political pomposity.
Mr. Jagdeo continues to storm out of Parliament for a couple of reasons. He survived as President because he was able to coral a large swath of authorities who had become converts to his leadership style. Much of this was achieved by incremental installments of fear, by economic strangulation and the generous rewards of perks for those who towed the line.
He knows of his reputation amongst those who are not his fans, knows fully well what his flaws are because he worked very hard at perfecting them; so he wears them like a badge of honor, like a singular identifier. He revels in them. He has the confident strength and uncompromising conviction to own them and in so doing maintains the support of a base that has little interest in complexity and no for care nuance. They like Jagdeo raw, offensive Jagdeo, the one who would tell the President and his government anything, walk out of Parliament several times, even if his behavior is non-productive and internationally embarrassing.
He also knows that no one- government officials or media- will ever remind him that he’s a representative of a large portion of the population and that the country’s challenges can only be overcome if he sits where he belongs and acts like an elected representative of people and not as an entity onto himself. No one, government or media, will remind Jagdeo that his political platform, like that of the Coalition’s, also promised improvement in services, basics like water and electricity and schools to the nation and that could only be accomplished if he sits in place and extends sensible solutions or alternatives to what remains so critical to so many. No one, government or media, will tell him that the road to a democratic culture remains a primitive path after twenty three years of one-party rule and that it takes government and opposition to begin its modernization. No one, government or media, will say that fifty years post Independence, Guyana is still vomiting from the hangover of single party rule which has occurred in lengthy stretches under different parties since 1966.
The Constitution gave us a parliamentary system that has a functional Opposition. This means that there can be no democracy without the critical and constructive participation of these opponents. The country’s democracy is not for Jagdeo to toy with. It is not for him to dispense as he pleases. It is not for him to determine on what occasions it should be practiced.
There is lots of work to be done. Crime continues to paralyze the country. Operation Dragnet which was declared successful a few months ago seems to have been labeled successful prematurely. This is what Jagdeo should be focusing on. Guysuco remains a failing corporation, the sugar industry remains threatened and the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on its ailments remain a tossup for implementation. Jagdeo should be working with the government to do what’s best for this industry. There is still a need for new school buildings and squatting remains a social epidemic.
Like the government, the Opposition is responsible for giving incessant attention to the development of policies in Parliament. Unlike the government which was elected by a majority, the challenge for the Opposition remains that of creating a credible image in its role.Walking out is not an option. It is cowardly disruption. It is as cowardly as the Government condoning this disruption by not calling on the pertinent committees to look into admonishing what has become a protracted lawless practice by the Jagdeo-led Opposition.
The Eleventh Parliament has sat for every month in the year of 2016 but has done so for just a few days at a time. And these days, few as they are, were richly interspersed with Opposition walk outs. Understandably, arresting government from the previous Administration and attempting to redirect its free fall trajectory is a mammoth task but we aren’t sure that members are spending enough time in Parliament and this, coupled with the routine walk out, helps to create legislative gridlock.
Thoughts abound here.
Government may be struggling to find legislation to put on the floor because there is a crippling ideological chasm between the two sides. Or, maybe they are thinking that that it is better to be in recess than for Parliament to be forced to consider too many proposals. It is ridiculous that such a strict recess schedule is kept when so many debates are curtailed by strict timetables, bills are rushed through, and a great amount of business has to be shelved to accommodate opposition walk outs.
As always, when politicians fail, the nation suffers. Token sloganeering and finger pointing about accountability continue to dominate rhetoric. Change was necessary and the people voted for it but the adulation has worn off as the new government continues to fall short of promises and expectations.
Flamboyant walk outs and organized disorder continue to erode the efficacy of the Eleventh Parliament. Governing capacity seems to have been attenuated by discontent over the promise of job creation, the promise of decent working wages and the exhausted wait for the pillagers of the public coffers to be brought to justice.
The Opposition contrasts its time in office by citing reduced production of rice and sugar under the Coalition and how this impacts the country’s foreign exchange; by lamenting over the scaling down of Baishan Lin’s raping of the country’s forestry – all to the signature silence from the Administration and its media that seems reticent to respond…to say that Baishan Lin was of benefit to that company and the usual suspects of the previous government that crafted that huckster contract…. to say that rice was tied in to that Petro Caribe deal that involved bartering rice for half the cost of oil and paying the balance off at Shylock rates – an unsustainable arrangement that benefited the usual suspects and collapsed because it was inherently untenable…
The Government’s performance and manner in which it addresses the country’s political reality are arguable. But the sheer parochialism of the Opposition and its predictable outbursts of infantilism should be the lead story here; should be the fodder that the Government uses to make the Opposition look smaller by the day. This is a matter of survival and the street brawl tactics that Jagdeo has patented should be matched with a tenacity of substance and rapid dismantlement of its barefaced propaganda. The government and particularly its media, have allowed the pettiness to canker and the line between productive opposing and low level baiting have been all but removed by this Opposition. Buffoonery has become a staple of Parliamentary sittings, to the peril of this Eleventh Parliament and the Opposition wins every time because they succeed in diminishing the government when it allows this to go unaddressed or uncontested.
The Electorate remains spectators to the pernicious politics being practiced, allegedly, on their behalf. They are thinking that the Coalition Government and its benefits may have been highly exaggerated. Their dreams of a more engaging economy are ebbing more than flowing because they do not feel the impact of growth in the economy, still hear the trundle of old economic gears as they combine the old principle of public expenditure with political ideology. No new paradigms here…at least not past the Maanifesto that remains in limbo. The statism of past dictatorships seems too deeply entrenched to be uprooted.
They’re still hanging on to hope, though.
Change will begin when the government denies Jagdeo his curtain call preemptively and asserts itself as the rightful leader of Parliament.