Opposition APNU/AFC ineffective and weak – Attorney Selwyn Pieters
– Should quit calling the PPP Govt “illegal”
Prominent Guyanese-Canadian Attorney-at-Law, Selwyn Pieters said that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition needs to step up and be a stronger parliamentary Opposition that is able to hold the Government accountable.
During an appearance on a social media programme “In the Ring” hosted by APNU/AFC Member of Parliament Sherod Duncan, Pieters expressed the view that the coalition Opposition is not performing up to par.
“The Opposition needs to step itself up. I mean press conferences and that sort of stuff doesn’t really cut it,” he contended.
While noting that Joseph Harmon is a former client and a friend, the lawyer said he is not pleased with his work as the Leader of the Opposition.
“I’m not impressed with how he’s performing as a Leader of the Opposition. The Opposition is to keep Government accountable through Parliament and I’m not seeing it,” Pieters posited.
According to the Canada-based Guyanese attorney, who had participated in several major Commissions of Inquiry (CoIs) in Guyana and has been an activist on a plethora of social issues here, for the Government to perform effectively, there needs to be strong Opposition.
“You know, the Opposition shouldn’t be weak… The [12th] Parliament is only a separation of two seats so the Opposition has to be strong. The Opposition has to perform well and the Opposition has to be responsible and sort of hold the Government to their promises to the people of Guyana… As long as there is parliamentary accountability, the Government will perform just so that the scrutiny is not blistering in Parliament.”
However, Pieters surmised that the APNU/AFC Opposition is unable to effectively perform due to the differences within the coalition and the two individual parties by themselves.
“I think what has been happening and what the perception is – even with your own people, the perception is that the Opposition is weak… I think what needs to happen is the Opposition needs to work within its sphere,” the prominent lawyer stressed.
Back in August, two of the five parties that constituted the PNC-led APNU fraction of the coalition – the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and the Justice For All Party (JFAP) quit the partnership. This was further compounded by the divide within the PNC which saw several senior party members walking away in recent months as well as embattled PNC member James Bond publicly lashing out at the former President David Granger for causing the party’s loss at the March 2, 2020 elections as well as for the exclusion of Chairperson Volda Lawrence from the Members of Parliament list.
Meanwhile, AFC – the minority party in the coalition – has also faced its own challenges over the past months with several senior members resigning. Most of them accused the party of being consumed by the PNC. Only earlier this week, former AFC parliamentarian Reynard Ward said the party is “…in a broken, abusive and one-sided relationship…” with its coalition partner.
However, the AFC leadership seemed unfazed by this and during a press briefing on Wednesday, Leader Khemraj Ramjattan and General Secretary David Patterson had brushed off the claims of the party playing a submissive role to the APNU – a longstanding criticism since they joined forces in 2015.
Nevertheless, Pieters went on to outline that there is a lot of work that has to be done and the Opposition and Government need to find ways of working together for the betterment of the country.
Stop calling PPP Govt illegal
In the same breath, the attorney pointed out that this cannot happen if the Opposition continues to refer to the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration as “illegal”.
“The Opposition, who has just left Government, cannot operate as though they are estranged from the Government of the day. From what I hear the posture is, you guys call them the “illegal Government”. They’re not an illegal Government, they’re the Government in power right now unless a court says that they’re not. And so it makes no sense not talking to them… If you call somebody illegal, and illegitimate and all that sort of stuff, you know, they may react in kind and not give you recognition even though that’s not a posture that should be taken,” the lawyer argued.
According to Pieters, who was an election observer at the contentious March 2 polls and had spoken out against the blatant attempts to “frustrate” the tabulation process of the Region Four votes, it is time to move on.
“The Opposition APNU/AFC and the PPP/C have to engage in dialogue. We had five horrible months and some of us are still healing from it. I was getting death threats and kind of vitriols was spewed against me simply because I called things as I saw it. People didn’t agree with that and I had to bury that and move on. I don’t hold any ill-feelings against people for what happened during those five months but we all have to move on from that. The APNU/AFC is in Opposition. The APNU/AFC will be well served by trying to build bridges with the supporters that left,” the attorney stressed.
To this end, he suggested that an independent interlocutor may be needed to bring the two sides to the drawing table to work on critical issues such as the pending judicial appointments and the most pressing matter that requires all Guyanese to have a collective front – the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy.
On this note, Pieters lauded the PPP/C Government for retaining former Foreign Affairs Minister and Foreign Secretary under the coalition regime, Carl Greenidge, who is currently Guyana’s Agent leading the local team in the border case.
“There has to be a coming together in some way for the development of this country. Like how long will this [political] stalemate go on with just a small population of 750,000 people,” the Canada-based Guyanese asserted.
Moreover, the prominent attorney-at-law further cautioned the APNU/AFC against riling up its supporters. This was after Host Duncan claimed that persons on the ground are “waiting on the signal” to act.
But according to Pieters, “… if the Opposition party is the intellectual author of any conduct such as that which happened in the United States, there is always consequences – whether through the Parliament or whether through the criminal court or civilly. So, the Opposition always have to act responsibly even when people are calling to go out onto the streets. You don’t want an outcome that occurred in the United States recently, which was quite frankly disgraceful and a sort of a desecration of the sanctity of their legislature.”