Guyana’s 12th Parliament commenced yesterday. The last two times Parliament sat before yesterday was: on December 21, 2018, when the 11th Parliament had a successful No Confidence Motion passed against the sitting Government, essentially ending its life; and on January 2, 2019, when Granger’s APNU+AFC sought to have the Speaker illegally overturn the vote that took place on December 21st, 2018.
The Speaker at the time, a nominee of APNU+AFC, Dr Barton Scotland, rejected the illegal action by APNU+AFC.
It means that yesterday’s sitting came after 20 months of no Parliament in Guyana, an incredible 620 days of the top democratic institution being held hostage. Eight months of 2020 have elapsed and Guyana still has no 2020 budget, because there has been no sitting of Parliament.
We all know the reason why Parliament has been a no-show for twenty months. First, Granger and APNU+AFC desperately tried to delay an election they knew they had no chance of winning. Were it not for the unrelenting pressure of Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP, in partnership with civil society and international stakeholders, Granger would have ruled by edict, without an election.
Failing to avoid the election, the APNU/AFC then tried to thief the election.
But Guyana’s resolve has led to a new Government, even if it took almost six months to get Granger and APNU+AFC to leave Government after they lost. A new day has dawned, the 12th Parliament is in session.
This 12th Parliament is different in many ways. It has a new Speaker, Manzoor Nadir, who for many years sat in Parliament on the strength of Amerindian support for the United Force. The new Deputy Speaker is not only a new MP, he is the first Amerindian to hold the post of Deputy Speaker.
Coming on the first day of Amerindian Heritage Month, it is a fitting start to the celebration of our Amerindian sisters and brothers. In fact, the 12th Parliament boasts the largest contingent of Amerindians ever in Guyana’s Parliament. There are many new MPs from both sides. There are many youthful Members. And one-third of the MPs are women. It also means that, once again, there will be more than two sides in Parliament. The PPP has 33 MPs, APNU+AFC (PNC) has 31 members. The AFC is fully integrated into the PNC. There is the single member of the Joinder Party – ANUG, LJP and TNM.
But even as this new-faced Parliament begins at one of the most crucial times in our history, there is some “same old”. Joe Harmon and his hapless APNU+AFC (PNC) MPs got themselves sworn in, so that they can begin getting their salaries, and promptly walked out of the Parliament.
Walking out of Parliament is nothing new, and all political parties in Guyana have, at one time or the other, exercised the right to walk out of Parliament. But it is a unique PNC tactic, walking out of Parliament for no reason, good or bad. One of the reasons they did not want Parliament to convene at this time is they think it is a bad idea for people to gather in one place because of COVID-19. Great care was taken so that this 12th Parliament could commence safely. It is the reason why the Parliament Building was not utilised and the venue shifted to the Convention Centre. It is the reason why, for the first time, the Parliament allowed virtual participation.
The same people who raised the safety issue and objected to the convening of the Parliament with in-person participation ignored the option of participating virtually. Bharrat Jagdeo chose to have a virtual presence. The Opposition wanted their cake and also wanted to eat it. Worse, these same persons encouraged their supporters to hold protests, burning things on the road and blocking traffic for several days in West Berbice. They also encouraged those same supporters to show up in their numbers in front of the High Court as APNU+AFC presented their election petition.
Most of those supporters gathered with no space between them and most without masks. The leaders, including Granger and Harmon, wore their masks and mostly tried distancing themselves from their supporters, who came there on the invitation of these leaders. It is not just sheer hypocrisy and idiocy, it is criminal to expose your supporters to the COVID-19 risks. But that is not what APNU+AFC care about. They care only about power, and if they cannot have power, then destroy everything.
But this 12th Parliament will not allow Granger and Harmon to distract them and to divert the goal of rapid development for Guyana. I am confident that the Bharrat Jagdeo-led PPP MPs in Parliament will focus on the work at hand. If the PNC, in the form of APNU+AFC, want to go rogue, they will be abandoning their supporters once again. For 23 years, while the PPP was leading a development revolution in Guyana, the PNC abandoned their supporters, preferring sabotage of the development agenda. For five years in Government, they again abandoned their supporters, preferring corruption and incompetence and disinterest in the welfare of the Guyanese people. Now that the people put them where they belong, as opposition, they again abandon their supporters. Instead of working on behalf of these supporters, they are out looking after their own interest.