It is important GTUC respond to the PPP’s information regarding our role in the 1960’s as carried in Demerara Waves on December 24, 2013. Particular attention is paid to “Guyana has turned full circle to the extent that the country has returned to the days of the mid 1960’s when the AFLCIO funded opposition Trade Unions and political parties to destabilise the Jagan-led PPP Government during the 1962-1964 period.” This attribution was made in reaction to the government’s non-support for the U.S Leadership and Democracy Project. In 1964 the PPP was not removed from office via destabilisation or force. It was the expressed will of the people via a democratic process called the ballot. Guyana never experienced a coup.
The trade unions were at odds with the government over two critical issues:-
(1) The Labour Relations Bill which was seen as an act to control and silence the voice of organised labour; and (2) the refusal to cordially address the Civil Service Association’s demand for increase wages and salaries, compounded by Premier Dr. Jagan’s public statement of “not a cent more,” which infuriated the workers. These acts are violations of fundamental universal rights and freedom. The right freedom association and collective bargaining are sacred instruments to progressive labour.
The trade unions, political opposition (UF and PNC), business sector, and sections of civil society made public their disapproval with the PPP’s stewardship. And while it is important every government pays heed to the people’s demands, the PPP transmitted the signal it was unconcerned.
The role of progressive Labour is to protect workers (past, present and potential) and create an environment of fairness. Any attempt that threatens this will meet the appropriate response. The current GTUC’s leadership is convinced its predecessors’ decisions were just and fair, given the PPP’s past and present contempt for citizens, international conventions, universal rights and laws. GTUC’s interest is permanent and over the years has joined with individuals and groups, in opposition and government, at home and abroad, to ensure universal principles are protected, advanced and upheld.
Holding the country ransom for three years of politics (62-64), destroying the unity and fabric of this nation for over half a century and counting must not continue. Nobody deserves this, including PPP supporters. Nobody deserves being led by an administration this brutish and vindictive in nature. It is the same attitude continued today and evident in the denial of annual grants to the GTUC, Critchlow Labour College and Women Advisory Council.
In competitive political party politics, government change and interchange all the time. No party has a birthright to govern. Lest it be unknown, forgotten or misunderstood, it is the people who determine the reign of government and not a political party who determines its reign over the people. When the people had enough they will remove the incumbent and this goes for every government. Article 9 of the Guyana Constitution which stipulates “sovereignty belongs to the people” is meant to undergird the principle that the nation’s political authority is vested in its people. The PPP must understand this. Similarly it must accept responsibility for refusing to learn from its mistakes, or the mistakes of others near and far, including democratic governments.
The world remembers the 2000 U.S. presidential election Democrat Al Gore conceded to Republican George Bush in an election generally considered compromised but the affected political party and nation have moved past the experience, learning from same through institutional strengthening and voters’ education. Nelson Mandela was denied his freedom for 27 years but began working with his oppressors even prior to his release from prison, positively changing the trajectory of South Africa.
The PPP continues to assault the fundamental right to freedom of expression, ideas and sharing of information, seeking to dominate every public space by dispensing the broadcasting spectrum to their cronies; denying alternative view and the right to respond in state media; denying Linden; imposing exorbitant license fees to still/weaken the voice of the small man, a matter engaging the Court’s attention; and withholding government/taxpayers’ advertisements, forcing sections of the media to comply with their wicked policies or turn a blind eye.
Corruption and corrupt officials besiege a nation but the government refuses to take action in spite of the preponderance of evidence locally and in the U.S’ courts. Local government authority continues to be undermined because of the obsession to dominate every political space. Collective bargaining is trampled for some as members of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) continue to battle a government steep in creating bogeymen and settling imaginary scores.
The PPP must take responsibility for its intransigencies, past and present, and strive to understand the principles of good governance. Being elected is a privilege, not a right. This privilege must see respect for all the people and adherence to the principles (Rights & Rule of Law) that would ensure this.