I extend to the APNU and the AFC congratulations on the historic agreement to contest the upcoming elections as a joint entity. Whilst I am disappointed that the negotiations appear to have centred not around the programmes necessary to restore to Guyana good governance, democracy and the welfare of the people but around how the fruits of electoral success will be divided, I am yet pleased with the outcome.
The decades-old domination first by the PNC and then by the PPP have validated the age-old saying that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Of course, power also reveals and it would be interesting to witness how those who had not previously held political power would operate in any new dispensation following the May 11, 2015 elections.
I am not unmindful of the fact that the AFC’s Mr. Moses Nagamootoo served as a minister in the PPP government and that the party’s leader Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan was a leading member of that party prior to leaving to form the AFC.
I believe I share with my fellow Guyanese the optimism that the cloud of lawlessness, corruption, favouritism, nepotism, abuse of office and the pursuit of personal wealth which appears to have afflicted many in the ruling class, will now lift. I am writing this letter to share with the leadership of the APNU and the AFC my own thoughts on some of the priorities which I would like to see established should they win the elections and form the government.
Before I do so, however, I wish to seek clarification on one of the issues on which agreement was announced. The APNU it is stated will have the presidency and one position of Vice-President while the Prime Minister will come from the AFC which will also have two positions of Vice-President. Under the Constitution the Prime Minister is a Vice President, “and he shall have precedence over any other Vice President”: Article 102 of the Constitution.
Here are my priorities:
1. Local government elections within 90 days of the general elections. These have already been delayed 18 years and by holding elections immediately after the general elections, there should be economies of cost and efficiencies.
2. The establishment of a Constitutional Reform Commission with the mandate not to tinker with the existing Constitution but to replace it with a more democratic instrument following national consultations. Central to this must be the reform of the dictatorial nature of the presidency and abolition of minority governments.
3. Constituting/reconstituting all the constitutional commissions including the Public Procurement Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Local Government Commission.
4. Reform of the public service including the reduction and reorganisation of ministries, increasing public service wages, productivity and technology, and reducing the number of contract employees.
5. Crime, Security, Defence and Judicial reform.
6. Formulation of policies on education including the University of Guyana, unemployment, youth and wages and the restoration of collective bargaining.
7. Formulation of a policy on the ownership and use of national and natural resources and governance in the Guyana Forestry Commission and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.
8. Tabling and review of major contracts entered into by the Government, including but not limited to Amaila, CJIA, the Specialty Hospital and Bai Shan Lin.
9. Reform of public financial management, including taxation reform and an independent parliamentary budget office.
10. Reform of major national institutions including GuySuCo, the National Insurance Scheme and Guyana Power and Light, all of which are in dire financial straits.
11. Addressing the question of corruption, fraud and theft from the public purse and forensic audits of the Privatisation Unit, NICIL and key ministries and departments.
12. Regulatory reform of the state media and a policy on the involvement of the state in commercial operations in any segment of the media.
All things being equal there is no reason why the matters cannot be addressed simultaneously, firm time lines allocated to them and every effort made to involve non-political actors. I appreciate that the Coalition will have other priorities but I certainly hope that the leadership would consider the twelve which I have identified.