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GUYANA: Opposition Leader dismisses calls for intensified street protests

Opposition Leader, David Granger on the picket-line outside the Office of the President

Chairman of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), David Granger has dismissed suggestions that the opposition parliamentary coalition is weak because it has failed to pressure the government on the streets with intensified street protests.

APNU’s second major constituent party, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), has repeatedly taken the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-dominated coalition to task for taking a soft line towards the  People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration.

Ordinary APNU/PNCR supporters sometimes advocate and expect a more militant and vibrant approach to the government on a range of issues such as the prorogation of the Parliament, alleged corruption, abuse of power and other alleged violations. Some opposition activists also want to see a more aggressive approach to secure constitutional reform to give back real and direct power to the people.

Confining APNU’s performance to advocacy in the National Assembly, media and a few picketing demonstrations; Granger told a news conference at the weekend that the majority of his supporters across the country were “quite satisfied with the line that we have taken.”

“If you want disorder, we are not in the line of creating disorder…We feel that the line that we have taken, the action that we have taken has been effective so if people expect disorder, well they won’t get it from us.

“They will get pressure, they will get aggressive behavior. They will get decisive action and we feel that the actions that we have taken have been successful,” he said. Granger declined to discuss the pros and cons of wider street protests.

He credited APNU’s performance with ensuring that there was no further abuse in a range of areas including governance and multi-million dollar infrastructure projects as well as the need to reduce crime- piracy, gun-running- and improve youth development, health-care and nursing education. “We could not do more than we have done,” he said. “Many times you find the government doing things which APNU has been calling for.

As recent as November 29, the WPA issued a statement calling for a “more vigorous campaign by the opposition” to force government to lift the suspension of the Parliament rather that just expressions of outrage and absurdity through letters to international bodies, meetings with locally-based diplomats and civil society organisations and the issuance of statements to local and regional media, APNU’s mass rally on November 14 and weekly Tuesday protests outside the Office of the President.

The WPA also flayed the Alliance For Change (AFC), the architect of the no-confidence motion that eventually led to President Donald Ramotar proroguing the Parliament on November 10, for being conspicuously absent from the firing line except for a guest appearance at the rally at the Square of the Revolution.

That party went on to castigate the opposition for failing to outline the “game plan” for a campaign of civil disobedience in a direct and robust manner to have Parliament restored. “The speeches failed to communicate a common message of resistance and a call to battle stations.,” said the WPA.

“Most importantly, if after a few weeks’ activity of picketing, consultations and press releases have elapsed, and the Government remains obdurate and entrenched, then the next and more intensive phase of the Action Plan should include marches and mass mobilization so as to prevent the supremacy of Parliament being trampled under the deadening boots of Executive paramountcy,” the WPA added.

That party dismissed suggestions that countrywide mass street protests would result in the opposition failing to attract non-traditional supporters. “Those who say marches, as against supposedly less threatening public meetings and picket action, will make APNU and AFC less able to win over significant numbers of traditional Government supporters must also realize that inaction may cause the Opposition to lose some of its hard core, but extremely frustrated voters, through abstention,” said the WPA.

The once vibrant and militant WPA that fought vigorously against the then PNC-led administration of Forbes Burnham in the 1970s and 1980s urged that there be a struggle for a stabilizing five-year national unity government based on votes won. The WPA’s formula is that the party with the largest number of votes should control the presidency, the second the prime ministerial post, the third the Speakership along with an all-party Cabinet, and with all the outstanding Commissions and checks and balances becoming activated.

The WPA further suggests that during this transitional period, the Constitution should undergo additional and more radical revision, including further reduction of Presidential powers, completion of the electoral system reforms of 1999, and allowing parties to form a coalition Government after elections.