November 22, 2014

The Rome Declaration

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that over 170 countries made a number of concrete commitments and adopted a series of recommendations on policies and investments aimed at ensuring that citizens all over the world have access to healthier and more sustainable diets.

This effort is considered a major step towards eradicating malnutrition worldwide and once the necessary follow-up action is taken by the various countries in keeping their commitment, the world will make some progress in ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition.

According to WHO, Government Ministers and senior officials responsible for health, food or agriculture and other aspects of nutrition adopted the Rome Declaration on Nutrition, and a Framework for Action a few days ago, which set out recommendations for policies and programmes to address nutrition across multiple sectors. The move came at the opening, in Rome, of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and WHO.

The Rome Declaration on Nutrition enshrines the right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food, and commits Governments to preventing malnutrition in all its forms, including hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity.

The WHO has stated that the Framework for Action recognizes that Governments have the primary role and responsibility for addressing nutrition issues and challenges, in dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders-including civil society, the private sector and affected communities.

Building on the Declaration’s commitments, goals and targets, the Framework sets out 60 recommended actions that Governments may incorporate into their national nutrition, health, agriculture, education, development and investment plans, and which they may consider when negotiating international agreements to achieve better nutrition for all.

The Framework lays out effective accountability mechanisms, including monitoring frameworks to track progress as well as nutrition targets and milestones based on internationally agreed indicators.

Signatory countries should achieve specific results by 2025, including existing targets for improving maternal, infant and young child nutrition, and for reducing nutrition-related risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

WHO is reminding all stakeholders that sustainable food systems are key to promoting healthy diets. Hence, Governments are encouraged to promote nutrition-enhancing agriculture, by integrating nutrition objectives into the design and implementation of agricultural programmes, ensure food security and enable healthy diets. The role of food systems – the way food is produced, processed, distributed, marketed and prepared for human consumption – is crucial in the fight against malnutrition. Many of the recommendations adopted by Ministers focus on ensuring that food systems become more sustainable and promote diverse and healthy diets.

To this end, WHO is urging Governments to strengthen local food production and processing, especially by smallholders and family farmers, giving special attention to the empowerment of women.

The organization is also urging Governments to educate and inform their citizens about healthier eating practices, and to introduce social protection measures, such as school-feeding programmes, to provide nutritious diets to the most vulnerable. Initiatives to combat obesity should be reinforced by the creation of healthy environments that also promote physical activity from a young age.

WHO has recommended that to provide universal access to healthy diets, Governments should encourage a reduction in trans fats, saturated fats, sugars and salt in foods and drinks, and improve the nutrient content of foods through regulatory and voluntary instruments.

The Rome Declaration also called on Governments to regulate the marketing of infant formula and to protect consumers, especially children, from marketing and publicity of unhealthy foods and drinks.

As stated by WHO, global nutrition problems require global solutions. Nutrition deserves much greater attention on the international development agenda. The ICN2 Framework for Action sets out the strategies, policies and programmes that need to be implemented to “end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition” in line with the likely post-2015 UN development agenda.

Countries recommended that the UN General Assembly endorse the Rome Declaration and Framework for Action and consider declaring a Decade of Action on Nutrition for 2016-2025.

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The boycott call

Freedom of the press is a celebrated norm in any democracy, as it enables the maintenance of basic checks and balances of the work of public officials. The media would not at all times report positively about politicians, and at times the negative publicity is not intended to denigrate them.
As the eyes and ears of the people, these critical reports often point to double standards and other wrongs, with the hope that those identified will pay heed. Guyana’s media landscape is not peculiar compared to other democracies the world over. Media houses report the news based on their policy, which to a largely extent is guided by the views of their principals. Thus, it is not strange for them to adopt a certain political slant in reporting.
This becomes more evident during times of elections, as they cater for the selective perceptions of the divergent masses. Politicians generally like to portray an image as hands on, effective leaders and when they are shown in contrast, some quickly become upset.
Taking libelous comments aside, the latter behaviour points to immaturity, since politicians by their will to seek public office, must accept that as public officials, they and the party they represent will be subject to scrutiny.  No realistic politician would expect glowing reports of his work or his party, and here is where handling negative publicity is important.
Lashing out at media houses that do not embrace their ideologies would not work, a better thing to do would be, in addressing a perceived misconception or inaccurate report, to avoid casting aspersions.
Here is where A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) Co-Chair, Dr Rupert Roopnarine crossed the line when he called for a boycott of Guyana Times, the Guyana Chronicle and the National Communications Network (NCN).
Roopnarine seems to have a strong derision for the latter as one would recall during the 2011 Generally Elections, he branded the entity the “Criminal Communications Network”.
From the appeal by Roopnarine, it appears that the now APNU politician is living a life of contradictions.
As a leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), in the days of the Burnham Government, he actively promoted press freedom and would have had many bitter experiences being harassed for being in possession of the party’s newspaper, the Day Clean.
From what has come out of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (CoI) thus far, the People’s National Congress (PNC) Government was intolerant of Opposition views, the WPA’s in particular.
Today, Roopnarine is now an ally with his former enemies, so it might not be too surprising why he is so averse to views contrary to his, to the extent of calling for boycott of media houses. From the CoI hearings, the nation was appraised of an incident where newsprint for the Day Clean was destroyed, the Day Clean was burnt, and persons were arrested for being in possession of the newspaper.
This level of intolerance no longer exists as media houses freely publish reports heaping both praise and criticism on the Government and Opposition, but the APNU Co-Chair seemed to be deeply stuck in the old mode of things. The PNC, now APNU, to which Roopnarine is a senior member, is yet to distance itself from the boycott call. And from all indications, it would not.
The PNC when in power developed a reputation for corruption, abuse of power and mistreatment of the citizenry. In Opposition, the destruction continues, and more recently, not with calls for boycott, but actual budget cuts on programmes that will positively impact the lives of ordinary citizens.
Undoubtedly, the party has achieved an unenviable record in the Caribbean of being destructive both in Government and Opposition. So it is within this context Roopnarine’s comments must be viewed, as he is in the bosom of a party that never saw freedom of the press as a fundamental right, but as a privilege for the politically appropriate.

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The spirit of Parliament

Now that a week has passed since the President prorogued Parliament, the major source of the  Opposition’s angst appears to be their claim that the President “didn’t pay fair”.
While they had to concede that the power of prorogation is a Constitutional prerogative conferred on the President, they are making all sorts of arguments as to why he ought not to have exercised it. He violated the “spirit of Parliament”. But the arguments all boil down to the issue of fairness – ultimately a moral question.
But as with all such questions, the context in which the issue is played out is crucial in determining what is “fair”. The institution of Parliament evolved over many centuries in England as the Monarchy was forced to concede more and more powers to the representatives of the people. But those powers did not just devolve to “the Legislature”, but to that body AND the Cabinet.
The power to summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament, however,  has been retained in all Westminster-derived governance systems and it was placed in the Cabinet. Even in the UK, where “Parliament is supreme”, the Queen exercises these prerogatives upon advice of the Prime Minister – the Head of the Cabinet. In Canada, the Governor General as the Head of State has never refused the request of the Prime Minister – the Head of Cabinet – to prorogue Parliament.
The reserve powers were retained for a purpose, and a more appropriate question that should have been asked in Guyana today is “under what circumstances” ought the prerogative of dissolution be used by Cabinet, and for what length of time. These larger questions concern the ultimate goal of “Parliamentary Government” to be coterminous to “responsible Government”. This is what the “spirit of Parliament” is all about.
By denying the President, our Head of State, the right of prorogation, the Opposition would abolish the separation of powers, declare Parliamentary sovereignty and assume the powers of the Executive and perchance the Judiciary.
“Absolutism” can be exercised in an institution as much as by an individual. The President exercised his power of prorogation, as he explicitly and repeatedly stated, to offer another opportunity to the Opposition to play a constructive role in responsible Government. He specifically invited the Opposition to participate in a plan of work to implement programmes and pass necessary legislation to move the development of the country.
The President also placed an outer time limit on the period of prorogation, with dissolution and elections even before then, should the Opposition refuse his offer.
In these circumstances it is impossible to agree with the Opposition that the President has “abused” his reserve power. In Canada, where the question has been debated extensively for over a century, the consensus is that the Head of State should only deny a request for prorogation in “the most exceptional circumstances”.
But the Opposition is also being quite disingenuous in invoking the spirit of Parliament and “fairness” to facilitate their assault on the Executive. From the beginning of this 10th Parliament, the Executive conceded that the new Parliamentary dispensation, the country was now in “unchartered waters” and that the Executive and the Legislature should be circumspect in their actions to deliver “responsible governance”.
But it was the Opposition that figuratively kicked sand in the Government’s face.  They unilaterally not only appointed their own Speaker, but broke Parliamentary practice to also seize the Deputy Speakership. Refusing to concede that by the rules of the Constitution, which gave them the powers they were flexing, that same Constitution created the Executive and adumbrated its legitimate powers.
The Opposition took over the majority membership and chairs of all Committees in Parliament. They could then or kill every piece of legislation the Government wanted for the benefit of the country – such as the Telecommunications and AML/CTF Bills. Fairness? Spirit of Parliament?
The Opposition should be ashamed to invoke these hallowed principles.

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Irresponsible statements

Guyanese citizens are currently being bombarded with comments from some of our political leaders which, in our view, are considered racially insensitive and distasteful.

It must be noted that these statements are not coming from the mouths of young or new politicians, they are indeed coming from senior Members of Parliament who should be well aware of the responsibility they have, not only to themselves to behave in a mature and respectful manner, but to the people they serve.

Following the President’s Proclamation on the prorogation of Parliament, an act that falls within the Constitution, members of the combined Opposition held a meeting in the Chambers of the National Assembly, where several utterances were made, some of them being extremely vitriolic and certainly unsubstantiated.

APNU MP Carl Greenidge referred to King Charles losing his head for the prorogation Parliament. He was reported in the media as saying:

“The case of King Charles is an interesting one. I know that you are familiar with the history from which this Constitution derives its origin, and when Charles prorogued his parliament in 1929, I don’t think he had anticipated the route on which he was setting out. Charles of course was the steward King who lost his head directly as a result of the proroguing and the activities that followed from the proroguing.”

There were many comments made by AFC Members of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan and Moses Nagamoottoo, and APNU Leader David Granger, that in different ways were considered to be veiled threats of violence, and violence against Government.

The utterances made by Ramjattan were distasteful and could be viewed as inciting racial tension. He was alleged to have said:

“This PPP/C is provoking that which could very well be very serious to itself, but it has the spin master. I want to tell especially the East Indian constituents in this country this is exactly where the PPP/C wants us and they are going to make the spin. They are going to get their people, if people start demonstrating. They are going to get their people to beat up East Indians.”

Almost daily there are accusations being leveled against public officials of corruption and the Government’s intention to use the prorogation period to “thief more” without any evidence being provided to substantiate these claims.

Leaders must be willing to engage in debates and discussions on real issues and refrain from making statements which they cannot prove or those which cannot stand the test of scrutiny. Making such allegations does not add in any way to the level of political discourse that voters, especially young people, expect.

The Parliament Chambers was used as the platform to launch these attacks on the Government and the Head of State. The Speaker who presided over the ‘sitting’ did not caution the MPs at any point in time about the highly insensitive and irresponsible comments that were being made.

There must be a Code of Conduct for politicians, one similar to the Code of Conduct that was established for media owners and practitioners during the last four national elections held in Guyana. Such a Code would seek to provide clear guidelines for politicians and political parties in relation to their conduct, especially during elections campaigning.

Whenever they step outside of these guidelines they must be sanctioned accordingly. Now that elections are eminent, perhaps the relevant stakeholders may want to seriously consider establishing a Code of Conduct for political parties and a facility to monitor compliance thereof.

All political parties, including both the ruling PPP/C, the APNU and AFC, must act maturely and make decisions in the best interest of the country and its people.

In situations such as this, one does not get everything he/she wants, but in negotiating, if one puts country first ahead of any party or self interest, there is a high possibility that the solution will be in the nation’s interest.

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The role of the Army

The Army’s role as a key institution of the State, and indeed its sine qua non, predates the modern State system. In 1965, just before Guyana was to be granted independence, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) was launched. It absorbed the colonial Volunteer Force and the newly formed and racially representative Special Services Unit (SSU) and included several young officers that had been trained in England.
One of those officers, David Granger, is the present Leader of the Opposition.
Following the Opposition defining the Administration as a “minority Government”, they launched nationwide protests against the Government’s prorogation of Parliament. With the heightened Opposition rhetoric there have been some disturbing calls for the Army to “take sides”.
The GDF’s role need to be reexamined. When it was launched, it was seen as a “modernising force” that would assist in transforming a tradition bound society. Then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, in fact, explicitly broadened the reach of the ethos of the Army by forming a plethora of state organisations modelled on the GDF.
The Guyana National Service (GNS) was the prime exemplar of this thrust and was led by officers generally seconded from the GDF or (less infrequently) the Guyana Police Force (GPF). It’s ranks consisted of youths from across the country – including students from the University of Guyana, and they were to be trained almost identically to the army.
The aim was to instil discipline” for the transformation of the society. There was also a Guyana People’s Militia (GPM) that acted as a reserve GDF force. To emphasise their function, the organisations were lumped together as the “Disciplined Forces”. There were several civilian affiliates of the then ruling PNC that also received military “disciplining” training.
The role and function of the Disciplined Forces were subsumed within the larger vision of the creation of a “Cooperative Republic” that was fundamentally socialist. Starting in 1989, however, then People’s National Congress (PNC) Leader Desmond Hoyte, signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that in effect conceded the co-operative experiment had failed.
The economy was reorganised along free enterprise lines as most of the previously nationalised “commanding heights of the economy” were privatised by the Hoyte regime and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP-C) Government that succeeded it.
However, there was never an explicit deconstruction of the role of the Disciplined Forces and the reformulation of a new guiding vision. In 2003, a Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) was established to examine primarily the question of the ethnic composition of the forces, but it took a more comprehensive approach and its 164 recommendations was quite far reaching.
Unfortunately the report became lost in the parliamentary approval process and while it was subsequently approved, most of its recommendations, especially those of its composition remain unimplemented.
There were, however, several ad hoc initiatives, the most notable being the dissolution of the GNS and the GPM. In the years since, there were sporadic calls for the reintroduction of the GNS to deal with problems manifested in the youth population.
While the calls were couched in the language of “training” the youths and getting them off the streets, there is definitely an undercurrent of the old desire to “instil discipline” into them. There were also persistent demands for “reform” of the GPF because of a number of problems that became manifest. But while there were several studies conducted, until this year, there were no institutionalised program of change.
With the GDF, however, while the “cooperative socialist” innovations – such as officers swearing to the political leader of the country – have been jettisoned, the institution has been left to muddle along. This is unsettling for an organisation operating on “Standard Operating Procedures”.
This leads to confusion, which needs to be clarified in light of the present provocative statements by the Opposition.

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A chance for Guyana

It would appear that the Opposition and its allies have lost the plot on the function of our political system. We remind them that it has to do with the development of our country in the most expansive usage of the term “development”. The Opposition APNU and its partner the AFC have embarked on a series of “rallies” to denounce the President for using his Constitutional power to prorogue Parliament.
While some, in a fit of what they consider to be sweeping benevolence, admit that while the President’s act is “legal”, they contend that it is not “democratic”. In this way, they also allude to the ultimate goals of the political system – with “democracy” being their touchstone.
But they are being quite disingenuous since they are once again waffling on the issue of the distinction between “procedural” and “substantive” democracy. Procedural democracy is a means to the ultimate end of substantive democracy in terms of what it means for the positive development of the citizenry.
The Opposition, however, seem to be saying that the President’s prorogation is not “democratic, because he alone has trumped the National Assembly. And brought the latter institution, which now has an Opposition majority, to a halt. This is a procedural perspective which ignores the President’s explanation when he made his proclamation, of his substantive goals, which has the best interest of the populace at their core.
The Opposition had made it clear that when Parliament was reconvened on November 10, they were going to ignore the substantive matters that were in front of this 10th Parliament – both on the floor and in Committees. They were determined to “punish” the Government by moving their “No-Confidence” Motion that would have made the latter collapse and push the country into elections within three months.
This move was totally fixated on the procedural aspect of democracy that pertains to censuring a Government. The President, on the other hand, wanted to achieve the substantive goals of bringing the Opposition on board on a limited work-programme centred on matters before the National Assembly.
Ironically, the opponents of the President, in and out of the National Assembly, have been extolling the virtues of a “National Unity Government” (NUG), that could similarly focus on development and not political one-upmanship. One can only conclude, sadly, that unfortunately, they can only conceive of a NUG with a structure that gives some of them, as they say in the vernacular, “minister wuk”.
But part of their problem is that the procedures of Parliament, ironically designed to further democratic values such as debate and checks and balances, can become a Procrustean bed that inhibits cooperation. By definition, one is compelled to oppose whatever emanates from “the other side”.
But social psychology demonstrates that once “sides” or “teams” are formed by such structured rules, the competition inevitably develops an extreme dimension. On the other hand, in the same National Assembly, in rooms away from the floor of the invariably raucous Assembly debates, Committees composed of both Government and Opposition members get on with the business of the people in a much more collegial and productive manner. Substantive democracy is furthered more effectively.
This is what President Ramotar has offered the Opposition by his Prorogation Proclamation. Let the leaders of both sides sit down and agree on what needs to be done in the short term and insist that their respective branches of Government – the Executive and the Legislature – work together to achieve the common objectives.
There has been the objection raised to the President’s proposal that all Bills before the Assembly and Committees automatically “die” on a prorogation of a parliamentary session. This procedure was intended to fulfil the substantive concern that one Parliament should not bind its successor.
However the English Parliament and many others have evolved procedures for “carrying over” business. Form must not trump substance.

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Hypocrites on press freedom

This newspaper condemns the vicious attack launched on it by the Vice-Chairman of APNU Dr Rupert Roopnarine at the Opposition’s rally at the Square of the Revolution. The “rally” was billed as an occasion to mobilise their supporters against the President’s prorogation of Parliament.

But Roopnarine saw fit to call for a boycott of this private newspaper, as well as two state owned media. It stretches credulity that he could connect the “prorogation of Parliament” with the most graphic and violent threat to “burn” this newspaper.

Lest we be accused of hyperbole, we quote Roopnarine from one of the two Opposition-aligned newspaper (which labelled us “Government aligned): “within a very short time we will have to arrange a ceremony at the Square of the Revolution where we can put an enormous bonfire of the Chronicle and the Guyana Times to let them know we understand the manipulation. We understand the nastiness of their threats and we intend to act on it”.

In the context of one of the Opposition newspaper receiving fervent support from Roopnarine and his confederates against a purported threat against the lives of the owner and staff, we wonder what they will now say about Roopnarine’s warning “to act” against this newspaper. We notice with interest, the encouragement by Roopnarine of the undiluted “nastiness” spouted by the Opposition aligned press and his Freudian transference of that label to the GTimes.

In the context of the history of Guyana, in which fire was used to teach the perceived supporters of this Government a “condign” lesson, Roopnarine’s call must be taken seriously in the realm of the real. He had once been accused of setting fire to the headquarters of the very party – the PNC – with which he has now hopped into bed and pulled the covers. At this “nastiness”, his erstwhile comrade, the martyred Dr Walter Rodney, must be shaking his head in consternation.

One would have expected that someone, in the person of Dr Roopnaraine, who holds himself out as a paragon of liberal virtue and morals within our society would have known better than to launch such an irresponsible, distasteful, and objectionable attack on a free and privately owned media.

We view these boycott calls as an attack on press freedom and the right of every media house to report news and other information in the public’s interest without interference from politicians. Roopnarine proves the maxim: “scratch a liberal and you will find a fascist”.

This newspaper wishes to state that there is nothing democratic about the calls made by the APNU, which routinely chastises the present Administration for “undermining press freedom”, by seeking to shut down the GTimes and viciously attack it for daring to criticise them.

We wish to put Dr Roopnaraine and the Opposition on notice that his calls for a boycott make hollow his party’s rhetoric with respect to support for media rights and freedom of the press.

The Guyana Times will not be intimidated by these calls for the boycott and public burning. This newspaper and its journalists will continue to report on every issue that is of interest to the Guyanese public and will not be muzzled in its articulation.

The Guyana Times will be officially writing to the Guyana Press Association, the Independent Media Association of Guyana, the Caribbean Press Association, Reporters without Borders and other international agencies that work to safeguard the rights of the press.

Further this newspaper, over the next few days, will be regionalising and internationalising this threat made by the leadership of the APNU and will continue to struggle in the cause of freedom of the press.

We call on members of civil society, the diplomatic corps and other right-thinking Guyanese to also condemn this wanton attack on the Guyana Times which is a privately owned newspaper.

We remain the beacon of truth in a troubled land.

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Keeping Guyana calm

The situation in Guyana is one with which all nations in the region should be concerned. Guyana is an important trading partner. Trinidad and Tobago, for instance, exported an estimated $1.1 billion worth of products to the country over the period 2007 to 2010 and for that period imported $596 million in products.

Additionally, both Governments have recently partnered on initiatives and incentives to reduce the food import Bill and boost production, with plans to make large tracts of land in Guyana available to Trinidad and Tobago agriculturalists.

 The announcement that Guyana’s President has prorogued the country’s Parliament has provoked strong reaction. President Donald Ramotar, 64, exercised his power under Article 70 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Guyana to issue a proclamation proroguing the Parliament. The Parliament will therefore not sit for a maximum of six months, though Ramotar said he hopes to hold a sitting before that time if a consensus can be bridged with Opposition parties.

The move came in the face of a No-Confidence Motion tabled by a coalition of Opposition parties which would have been successful since those parties hold a slender one-seat majority in Guyana’s unicameral legislature.

Ramotar’s Government, the Indo-Guyanese-tied People’s Progressive Party, holds 32 seats, while the Opposition parties – including the Afro-Guyanese-tied People’s National Congress – hold 33. The President’s move was not altogether surprising as on November 4, he had indicated that if the Opposition went forward with its motion, he would have either prorogued the Parliament or dissolved it, triggering a fresh election. An election is due in 2016.

In announcing his invocation of his powers under the law, Ramotar said, “my decision to exercise this constitutional option was not taken lightly, but it was the sole recourse that was left to me to ensure that the life of the 10th Parliament was preserved”.

Ramotar said he made a “practical choice between an atmosphere of confrontation, as the No-Confidence Motion debate would fuel, or that of possible accommodation, as a prorogued Parliament can facilitate, if there is a genuine intent on all sides”.

There is merit in Ramotar’s reasoning, since in a highly charged environment which is fostered by political parties being perceived along racial lines, any move which maximises stability is most welcome. The prorogation has an utmost limit and Ramotar has assured that if no consensus is reached, he will hold an election. Such an election will, in any event, be inevitable as the Government will be forced to reconvene Parliament in order to pass a budget.

While the Opposition parties have cried foul and have said the latest move is undemocratic, we beg to differ. It instead represents the valid exercise of a provision of the Constitution of that country which must, at the end of the day, be supreme. At the same time, Ramotar will have to soon face the reality that his latest move, although well-intentioned, may in the end be nothing more than a delaying tactic. Elections must and will come.

In the meanwhile, the President has waged in favour of a situation where there is a chance of consensus, as unlikely as that might be. And a chance is better than none. It is better for Guyana as a nation to have as regular electoral terms as possible, rather than volatile Governments unable to implement changes.

Over recent years, the Guyanese economy has exhibited moderate economic growth. GDP has risen steadily, moving from US$5.9 billion in 2011 to US$6.5 billion in 2013. Still, the economy is heavily dependent upon the export of six commodities — sugar, gold, bauxite, shrimp, timber, and rice — which represent nearly 60 per cent of the country’s GDP and are highly susceptible to adverse weather conditions and fluctuations in commodity prices, such as the price of gold.

Inflation has been kept under control. Recent years have seen the Government’s stock of debt reduced significantly. But many chronic problems still exist such as debt and poor infrastructure.

Guyana must exercise caution and calmness in this current terrain and a mature approach to solving its problems must be adopted by all sides, respecting the law and balancing that with the need for expressions of the will of the electorate. To do otherwise will be an invitation to a return to the volatility that has characterised Guyana politics over the decades.

First published by Newsday, Trinidad and Tobago, November 14.

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Ex-parliamentary grandstanding

It is disappointing that the combined Opposition parliamentary parties have refused President Donald Ramotar’s invitation to have dialogue following the exercise of his constitutional authority and decision to prorogue Parliament. Those parties are trying desperately to convince the public here and further afield that Ramotar acted ultra-virus as regards the Constitution of Guyana.

Over the past few days, the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) have also launched a frenzied campaign to convince the world that the Government is “undemocratic” and is seeking to “muzzle the voices” of the elected representatives of the Parliament. Using a barrage of rhetoric that evidently changes according to the audience and the mood of the Opposition parliamentarians, these parties are arguing that the Donald Ramotar Administration wants to avoid scrutiny and will most likely enter into contracts of a questionable nature before any decision to reconvene Parliament is taken.

Surprisingly, a regional newspaper and a small number of civil society organizations swallowed the Opposition’s bait and are expressing the view that Guyana is headed down the “path of a dictatorship” and some sort of subversion of democracy is occurring. Instead of using the period of prorogation to enter into serious discussions with the Donald Ramotar Administration aimed at resolving political differences and moving the country forward, the APNU and AFC are busy campaigning, inciting racial and political violence, and imputing all sorts of negative motives on the Executive.

It would appear that neither the APNU nor AFC has confidence that dialogue, even at this late hour, could result in the interim or long term resolution to some of their concerns. Neither party appears willing to demonstrate statesman behaviour and political maturity to give talks a final chance. But they continue to make comments aimed at coaxing Guyanese here and in the Diaspora into believing that they are genuinely concerned about reconvening Parliament, a restoration of democracy and developing Guyana.

There must be no ambiguity about this issue. The APNU and AFC are interested in reconvening Parliament to shut it down and cause the collapse of a Government. They were never really interested in good governance or consensus building with the Donald Ramotar Administration. As such, Parliament turned into the Opposition’s sanctuary and a place where Opposition legislators sought political revenge, piloted controversial and spiteful Bills, and un-parliamentary behaviour reigned supreme.

As a result, Guyanese became disappointed and frustrated over the pointless politics that was playing out from the Opposition benches. The 10th parliament was not the people’s Parliament; instead it degenerated into a place and stage for the AFC’s Moses Nagamootoo and Khemraj Ramjattan to launch vicious attacks against their ex-colleagues in the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and former President Bharrat Jagdeo after they were rejected.

It became the Parliament where the APNU’s Carl Greenidge and Joseph Harmon could pilot Motions and Bills targeting specific members of the Government and politicians within the local landscape.  Additionally, since the November 2011 elections, both APNU and AFC have been working desperately to cripple the Government’s efforts to run an effective development programme by mis-using their one-seat majority.

In fact, they have breached and forcefully changed every single parliamentary convention that could give Government the opportunity to carry on their development programme.They have wreaked havoc in the National Assembly by rejecting billions of dollars in Government spending aimed at reducing poverty and lifting the standard of living of all Guyanese under the guise that the dealings of the Government are corrupt and non-transparent.

When Government found innovative ways within the confines of the State apparatus and the Courts to continue delivering basic goods and services to the public, the Opposition, along with its media aides, launched intemperate attacks on private investors, local businesses, the integrity of Government Ministers and law-abiding private citizens.

One can only hope that this political grandstanding by the Opposition won’t spill over into the ex-parliamentary arena following the prorogation of Parliament by the President.

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Ex-parliamentary grandstanding

It is disappointing that the combined Opposition parliamentary parties have refused President Donald Ramotar’s invitation to have dialogue following the exercise of his constitutional authority and decision to prorogue Parliament. Those parties are trying desperately to convince the public here and further afield that Ramotar acted ultra-virus as regards the Constitution of Guyana.

Over the past few days, the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) have also launched a frenzied campaign to convince the world that the Government is “undemocratic” and is seeking to “muzzle the voices” of the elected representatives of the Parliament. Using a barrage of rhetoric that evidently changes according to the audience and the mood of the Opposition parliamentarians, these parties are arguing that the Donald Ramotar Administration wants to avoid scrutiny and will most likely enter into contracts of a questionable nature before any decision to reconvene Parliament is taken.

Surprisingly, a regional newspaper and a small number of civil society organizations swallowed the Opposition’s bait and are expressing the view that Guyana is headed down the “path of a dictatorship” and some sort of subversion of democracy is occurring. Instead of using the period of prorogation to enter into serious discussions with the Donald Ramotar Administration aimed at resolving political differences and moving the country forward, the APNU and AFC are busy campaigning, inciting racial and political violence, and imputing all sorts of negative motives on the Executive.

It would appear that neither the APNU nor AFC has confidence that dialogue, even at this late hour, could result in the interim or long term resolution to some of their concerns. Neither party appears willing to demonstrate statesman behaviour and political maturity to give talks a final chance. But they continue to make comments aimed at coaxing Guyanese here and in the Diaspora into believing that they are genuinely concerned about reconvening Parliament, a restoration of democracy and developing Guyana.

There must be no ambiguity about this issue. The APNU and AFC are interested in reconvening Parliament to shut it down and cause the collapse of a Government. They were never really interested in good governance or consensus building with the Donald Ramotar Administration. As such, Parliament turned into the Opposition’s sanctuary and a place where Opposition legislators sought political revenge, piloted controversial and spiteful Bills, and un-parliamentary behaviour reigned supreme.

As a result, Guyanese became disappointed and frustrated over the pointless politics that was playing out from the Opposition benches. The 10th parliament was not the people’s Parliament; instead it degenerated into a place and stage for the  AFC’s Moses Nagamootoo and Khemraj Ramjattan to launch vicious attacks against their ex-colleagues in the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and former President Bharrat Jagdeo after they were rejected.

It became the Parliament where the APNU’s Carl Greenidge and Joseph Harmon could pilot Motions and Bills targeting specific members of the Government and politicians within the local landscape.  Additionally, since the November 2011 elections, both APNU and AFC have been working desperately to cripple the Government’s efforts to run an effective development programme by mis-using their one-seat majority.

In fact, they have breached and forcefully changed every single parliamentary convention that could give Government the opportunity to carry on their development programme.They have wreaked havoc in the National Assembly by rejecting billions of dollars in Government spending aimed at reducing poverty and lifting the standard of living of all Guyanese under the guise that the dealings of the Government are corrupt and non-transparent.

When Government found innovative ways within the confines of the State apparatus and the Courts to continue delivering basic goods and services to the public, the Opposition, along with its media aides, launched intemperate attacks on private investors, local businesses, the integrity of Government Ministers and law-abiding private citizens.
One can only hope that this political grandstanding by the Opposition won’t spill over into the ex-parliamentary arena following the prorogation of Parliament by the President.

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