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The battle over the Speaker of the House

by Rohit Kanhai (New York-based Caribbean Daylight newspaper)

“Livy says that Menenius told the soldiers a fable about the parts of the human body and how each has its own purpose in the greater function of the body. The rest of the body thought the stomach was getting a free ride so the body decided to stop nourishing the stomach. Soon, the other parts became fatigued and unable to function so they realized that the stomach did serve a purpose and they were nothing without it. In the story, the stomach represents the patrician class and the other body parts represent the plebs.

“Eventually, Livy concludes, the patricians conceded to some of the plebs’ demands, such as creating the tribunes of the people and establishing legal protection for all citizens against arbitrary intervention from an elected magistrate, and the soldiers returned to the city.” (en.wikipedia.org)

There is another more popular version of the fable which Guyanese know very well, but there is no need to get to the bottom of it. The above will suffice to make the point.

It does not take any imaginative leap to see the battle over the Speaker is captured in the above, as to which part of the body politic is the more important.

The argument is not over the Speaker of the House. It is more fundamental than that. It is over how Guyana is to be best served. The squabble over the Speaker is taking on the dimension of winning the battle and losing the war.

Let us get over one absurdity very quickly. The AFC’s argument that it plays the role of Kingmaker is nonsense. The 26 seats of APNU create the equation for the 7 seats of the AFC to be in that pivotal position. The AFC’s argument is that 7 is greater than 26. This is absolute nonsense.

What the 7 seats of the AFC really do is to give it a very pivotal role in deciding many issues. But that role is very easily exposed as soon as the AFC uses its position to allow the PPP to gain the levers of power that it did not win in the elections.

There are some arguments being put forward that the AFC should have joined with the APNU grouping before the elections and that would have caused the PPP to have been defeated in the elections. The APNU would then have been the government. There is no way we can determine this to be true. There is a whole book of “What Ifs.” Again Guyanese have their own understanding of “What Ifs” such as ‘if s%@t had wings, it would fly. So the pre-election coalition argument does not fly, or flies in the face of the current reality.

What the AFC will reveal is what it really is. In a race-charged environment, the roles of Ramjattan and Nagamootoo, two East Indians who claimed that they pulled some of the Indian votes from the PPP and that made the critical difference in the elections will be tested.

Did the support of the Indians they claim for themselves gave them the mandate to support the PPP or was it to counter the influence of the PPP? The AFC demands that the Speaker’s position be given to them or else? Or else what? Will they allow this critical Speaker’s position go to the PPP. In effect, they will be voting for the PPP by taking the “or else?” position.

Do the AFC really believe that the Guyanese people are that gullible to blame the APNU for such a loss of the Speaker’s position?

We are no longer speaking of the Speaker of the House. What we are debating is a Principle? What will be the AFC’s role in the government of Guyana, and I use the word “government” in its dual role, and correctly so. The AFC, in PRINCIPLE, was given a mandate to serve the interest of Guyana. If that was not the mandate, then it can claim the mandate of serving its narrow interest, at the expense of the nation. This is the crucial test between STATEMANSHIP and party politics. If the personal ambitions and narrow

interests of individuals win out against the NATIONAL INTEREST, we can expect “horse trading” to take place to satisfy personal ambitions.

Were this 1992, we could have made the argument that the PPP needed the “democratic space” the WPA gave it. In 2011, 19 years after, the record of the PPP is there for all to see. And the record of the AFC is also there to see. Ramjattan abandoned the PPP on principles.

Nagamootoo was booted out of the PPP because he was accused of trying to serve two masters. The public was informed by the AFC that they were waiting for Nagamootoo to make a decision as to whether to remain in the PPP or join the AFC. After that information

was made public, Nagamootoo’s fate was sealed. The decision was no longer his whether to remain in the PPP or not. He got the boot.

The million dollar question is precisely that. What rewards await these two former PPP members for their cooperation with the PPP.

Which brings us to a rather remarkable question – that of Trotman.

First of all, Trotman left the PNC on his own (subject to correction). Secondly, Trotman holds the most powerful position in the AFC, that of Leader of the List. Whew! You want to know what power is – think about that. It means that he can remove both Ramjattan and Nagamootoo from the list. Now that is power according to the AFC’s definition! But in doing so, he would be destroying the AFC, since it would not survive such a decapitation. So Trotman is in the unenviable position of having his finger on the guillotine which would not only decapitate the heads of Ramjattan and Nagamootoo, but also his own.

But Trotman has to answer the question that Ramjattan and Nagamootoo have raised. If they brought discontented Indians to the AFC, what did Trotman bring to the AFC? Is there any evidence that the AFC votes were all Indian? If they were not, then Trotman would have to make the same argument to Ramjattan and Nagamootoo that they are making to APNU. Trotman could argue that his contribution is just as valuable as theirs, if not greater. Please refer to the above fable as this story is becoming familiar.

Round and round the wheel goes, and where it stops, everybody will know.

This game of chicken will be continued to be played if it is not brought to a halt right now.

APNU will have to state its case in public. It will have to state clearly what its goals are and how it intends to achieve them. This is a battle for the public mind. It will have to be fought in public. It will have to take the public into its confidence and empower the public to make the choices. It cannot win the game of chicken, if it involves making secret deals behind the backs of the masses. The PPP has over the years proven itself to be very adept at that game. The WPA can attest to that, since Walter Rodney was assassinated as Jagan and Burnham made secret deals behind the back of the WPA.

Call the bluff of the AFC and make them lay their cards on the table before the Guyanese people.

It is as simple as that.

(Does the C in AFC means change as in the status quo or change in what Judas received as thirty pieces of silver?)