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GUYANA – THE LIST

NewsPoliticsGUYANA - THE LIST

The story of ‘The List’, the silent sentinel that is too unglamorous to make it to the campaign stage, typically reserved for meaningless statements flavored with noisy festivities, is part of the greater reason why voters go to the polls.

But they don’t know it- that ‘The List’ is a large part of why they go, of the power this generically labelled document gives to their leaders – because it exists in a Constitution and a plethora of laws that politicians don’t share with their supporters…in the public square…

Sure, we’ve heard that Democracy demands an informed electorate but the dissemination of political knowledge is a calculatedly shared commodity to voters who consume politics predictably.

So the bulk of voters go to the polls to elect a personality…one that has been manufactured for bite size consumption, with concentrated savor on the ingredients that keeps national politics relevant – racial division and political tribalism.

The resounding rejection of politics as practiced by the President/Leader David Granger at a convention that seemed indiscriminately delayed, has shoved ‘The List’ into focus, under spotlight and now into question.

It is the collective perplexity in the electorate

-and after Mr. Harmon, whose unambiguous defeat which led many to  believe that he would no longer be the Government’s Opposition Leader, was thwarted by his declaration of remaining in place –

that piqued our curiosity about what ‘The List’ means in the operation of politics.

We read as far back as The British Guiana Bill Hansard HL Deb 21 March 1928 vol 70 cc552-68 where we learned that the Constitution, in 1928, was the same that was inherited from the Dutch in 1803, that it was abominably inadequate and but for Governor Graem Thomson’s frustration in re-designing the sewage system-no less– of Georgetown, around 1925, an attempt to make the Constitution more usable would not have been made.

Progress was impeded by unproductivity. Unproductivity was caused by a lack of final authority. This was encapsulated in the finding ‘that no real progress can be achieved until the Government is provided with an official majority in order that it may no longer be within the power of a small minority’ .

In other words, assigning authority should be final when given and not have the possibility to be overridden by someone else claiming even greater authority.

This was the concept that sparked the formation of a Parliamentary Commission recommended by Governor Cecil Hunter Rodwell which subsequently examined the functionality of the Constitution.

Forgive us if the record of activities are not entirely in sequence but what we’ve cited seem to be the building blocks that got us to the framing of Government.

We’ll also caution that you consume this for peripheral understanding strictly…since this, as we see it, is the line up of key pieces of policy making, that got us to the adoption of ‘The List’.

After the 1925 realization of finite authority being directly proportional to progress, we see Britain’s Crown Colony model in continuous revision. Along that arc of progress and twenty five years later, in 1950, a Constitution Commission named after its leader, Sir John Waddington, with assistants Professor John Harlow and Dr. Rita Hinden was formed to look in to the governing bodies in relation to proportional representation by race in government- as part of its assignment.

In other words, Proportional Representation by Race became a feature objective for reform of government in Guyana under the rubric of progress, which was engendered by productivity which revolved around authority. It is no small matter that the Commission would have seen that the existence of each race in the country should not have been subjected to the one with the highest population.

And this was Jagan’s game plan, as discussed in Hansard:

In the old days, it was very much a question of negroes versus Indians and today it is quite true that there are already far more Indians in the country than there are negroes, largely because they are breeding much faster… Sir William Teeling 1140. 

And, Dr. Hinden’s contribution, as captured by Hansard, remains quite prescient:

“Dr. Rita Hinden, a member of the Commission, I would mention to hon. Members opposite, which originally propounded this Constitution, in a thoughtful article no longer ago than 17th October, used these words: ‘But one very disturbing thing emerged when our Commission took its public evidence. The People’s Progressive Party representatives and also the trade unions connected with them who gave evidence had quite a different conception of democracy from what we had. They interpreted democracy as what I can only describe as ‘one-party rule.’

She went on: They have acted consistently with the theory they propounded to us. They could now do what they wanted; they could override every obstacle that impeded them; they could use their majority to alter the processes of law to their convenience and thus eliminate all trace of opposition. In other words, democratic institutions were to be given by Britain as the stepping-stone to the totalitarian state. 

These words are not drawn from any Conservative source. They are the words of Dr. Rita Hinden” .

Equally as foretelling was the Sir William Teeling’s report to Parliament of Cheddi Jagan’s lament that he couldn’t get to power because he couldn’t reduce voting age to 18 , and his notation of  “we discovered that Dr. Jagan’s party was getting steadily weaker and that he was a little frightened himself about putting anything to the test now”  around line 1140.

We’ll caution again, that in researching this critical period of our history and the formation of its legislature, in which lies the genesis of ‘The List’, there are many slanted interpretations penned by scribes dedicated to shedding favorable light on the PPP’s commitment to boycotting the purpose of the Roberts commission, which had cited disproportional numbers of East Indians in Government, relative to the five other races.

Those sources would include communications like Wikipedia and Britannica and Ecyclpopedia.com, which rely on contributions from local operatives to submit, allegedly, well vetted matter for their publications.

Of course we won’t link to them. We’re committed to upholding journalism’s professional ethics. There’s no political persona, act or tribal bonding that could induce our false rendition of our history, decades later.

Coming out of the Commissions, particularly Waddington’s of 1950, the concept of nominating members to the seat of government became its pillar.

Back then , a 9 member team- 6 with 2 from each county- was nominated by the Governor. Of the remaining 3, 2 were nominated by the Governor and one by a group of politicians.

It’s easy to see the vulnerabilities of such a system, how the political machinery dependent on the affirmation of a single individual or group would be a magnet for copious curry favor and the other ‘c’ word…corruption.

We’re not faulting them, the Commission, for this, mind you, not when moral balance is an individual’s responsibility.

This is merely a historical reference to where this obscure term ‘List’ seems to have gotten its roots.

It was on this Waddington’s basis of nomination, selection and appointment that Guyana’s Constitution of 1980 framed the structure of its National Assembly. And it was this mechanism that forged the creation of the Party ‘List’ System; that gave power to the ‘Holder of the List’ to select proportionate to geography, gender and other dictated demographics, members from the Party to serve at Constituent levels.

‘The List’ – that selection control – puts power in the palms of those who hold that ‘Leader of The List’ portfolio.

For the PPP, that’s Bharrat’s throne and we’ll discuss how he strangles and decapitates those who get in his way….albeit figuratively but just barely …at another time. 

For this article though, ‘The List’, the unequivocal rejection of David Granger, his picks and Mr. Harmon’s statement of remaining as Opposition Leader which has unsettled so many, is our focus.

We’ve scanned through some of its history and will now segue into its practical application as we refer you to the laws  Section 156: 1-3 (bottom pg  scrolling 88/204) .

We are mere lay readers of the law but even from our purview, there seems to be more than than one way that Mr. Harmon can be replaced by the newly elected Party Leader, who may become the new –if elected by his Party for that specifically– ‘Holder/ Leader of the List

that portfolio that gives its holder power, by virtue of election, to determine who sits in Parliament as Representative of the People.   

And this reference would not be complete without revisiting the Coalition’s election in 2015 and discussing why the Leader of the Party, then David Granger, was roundly rejected to be the Party’s Representative of the List after that election and why a separate statement of entrustment for the List function became requisite.

The 2015 election of David Granger for Party Leader will forever be recalled as the race that went through a round robin of recounts, each one ‘finding’ an extra Granger vote until it gave him the win over Carl Greenidge- a foul victory that will have eternal stench.

It was that Party schism, along with other misgivings, that brewed so much mistrust, members were moved to elect an outsider, Dr. Harold Lutchman, as Representative of their List.

Sentiment was that Granger would have stuffed parliament with picks loyal to him and not constituents. That was the moment that reduced ‘Army men’ to a bad word.

In 2020, after David Granger walked out of office in the middle of the recount battle, he convened a meeting of the Coalition to discuss ‘The List’… the arm of power he was denied 5 years earlier.

Thing is, he is the only person from the PNCR who knew that the meeting was convened, it is said.

He then represented to AFC that his Party, PNCR, had selected him as the Head of the Coalition List, inclusive of AFC, from which MP’s would have been drawn.

Word is that before meeting with AFC, Mr. Granger held a meeting with some of his Party members, ostensibly to select Parliamentary members for his post- government but did so in hurried and half -hearted fashion.

He, it is reported, batted away questions posed about his selection of specific persons, telling those whose job it was to scrutinize those picks, to voice concerns at an upcoming APNU meeting. The trick was that, once the list was submitted to GECOM, it could not have been recalled for any amendment, after the meeting he was advising them to appeal at.

Consensus opinion is ….. “that man stole the power to appoint his friends as MPs and Leader, creating a chain of servitude and loyalty to him , while senior members of the PNCR were excluded from Parliament… what he was unable to do in 2015 he did in 2020 with a whole bunch of undesirables and show horses “.

We have not been able to ascertain whether he was ever granted the power by his Executive to be the Representative of the list, or if Dr. Lutchman was even formally relieved of that function.

But what seems certain is that Granger never told the PNCR Executive that he was meeting with AFC to select the people’s representatives for Parliament, that he lied to AFC about being chosen by his Party to be the Representative of the APNU List and that he used that confluence of lies and misrepresentations to unilaterally select personnel, largely unqualified but partial to him, to represent the People…is general thinking.

It would be an indelible stain, if there were more room for comment on the performance review of his calamitous control. Word is, all the boxes on the review for despicable have already been checked or written in, where not provided.

We tend to intellectualize our failures, our errors in judgment, when we ascribe integrity to those who posture as we want them to, when we are in our darkest hour…

as we were when the 2014 prorogation of Government cleared the way for elections finally and a new kind of PNC candidate, not steeped in the politics as usual, was unveiled.

…The politically downtrodden searching for Messiah nexus…

Lots of talk about power corrupts but where’s the talk when corruption is brought to power…as appears to be the case here, in cripplingly immeasureable abundance??

Many will be defensive about the content of this Opinion Editorial, in the tradition of pretending that ‘in- house problems should be fixed by in- house discussions’.

We have a different opinion, though.

Bad, fabricated, intelligence about a Candidate, for sake of promoting them as leader, will not be of benefit to anyone…let alone a political Party that exists to serve the nation and not itself … per its Constitutional Charter.

The PNCR may have been given a new lease on its existence with the conclusive victory of its new Leader.

The voters have spoken.

Now, its the Leader’s- Aubrey Norton’s – turn, which will be voiced by the speed with which he roots out cronyism and entitlement, retires the show horses and the rigor with which he restructures, repairs and revamps a Party stuck in limp mode, with a chronic ailment of under-delivery.

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