“Sidelined” Working People’s Alliance prepares for next crucial APNU meeting

Last Updated on Monday, 19 June 2017, 17:22 by Denis Chabrol

WPA Executive Members: Wazir Mohammed. Tabitha Sarabo-Halley; Dr. David Hinds, Tacuma Ogunseye and Jinnah Rahman.

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) on Monday assured that it was not about to pull out of the coalition with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) despite some internal pressure to do  so, but vowed that it would no longer allow itself to be sidelined in key policy-making.

WPA executive member, Dr. David Hinds called on the government to allow his party to “meaningfully engage” in shaping policy and vision for Guyana.

“We do not want to go there to the point of disengage. We are firmly committed to making this government work but because we have been in the trenches for forty odd years trying to bring about change in this country and we feel that the present government has a unique opportunity to bring about some semblance of change in this country so we have worked hard to put this government in power and we do not want to bring this government down.

WPA Executive Member, Tacuma Ogunseye said his party would decide its future political relations with government, APNU, wider coalition and Guyana after that body holds its first meeting in two years on July 22, 2017. “That meeting could have a very serious impact on the future relations between the WPA and our partners so for us this a very important meeting and we are going out of way to handle this delicately and with caution.

Ogunseye said the WPA’s role was diminished. “We in the WPA believe that when we look at the way in which the relationships unfold in the APNU that the WPA was effectively sidelined. There is no question about that. We may argue about why and so but we feel that the end result, any objective examination we will be forced to come to that conclusion.

Hinds noted that some party members strongly “feel that we should disengage with the government immediately.” “There is a range of opinion from those who are open to continue to work with the government to those who feel that we have been so disrespected that we should get out of the government so we have to manage all of those views inside of the party,”he said.

That once vibrant party made public its concerns due to no “active engagement” before President David Granger decided to shift Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine from the post of Minister of Education to the newly-created Minister of the Public Service.

FLASH BACK: President David Granger and Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine greet each other at D’Urban Park during the 2016 Education Month Rally.

Saying that the WPA comes out of a “radical”political tradition of the 1970s in which there is a voice in society that critiques government and questions power while being part of power.  Despite the fact that the WPA, on its own, has barely mustered one seat in the National Assembly in past general elections, Hinds said politics should not be only about the number of votes won at a general election. “There is a view in this country that is held by many of the leaders that what you bring to the table is votes and if you don’t bring votes, you are not important and we would lile to sincerely and respectfully disagree with that view.

We know that voting in this country has a lot to do with ethnic sentiments and we have never been an ethnic party in that regard but we would like to believe that at the level of shaping of public opinion… at the level of ideas… that we have contributed immensely to this country in terms of the discussion of ideas and the shaping of ideas and so, therefore, we bring something tangible to the coalition,”he said.

He said although  the WPA played an important role in helping to write the APNU+AFC manifesto and is eminently qualified to deal with sugar, oil economy and social cohesion, his party has been sidelined. “For the last two years, we have not been involved in shaping of policy and we feel the time has come for that to come to an end,” he said.

Hinds disclosed that his party had not been consulted after the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections about a place in the Cabinet, although that person would have been Dr. Roopnaraine. “We were not consulted and that is the crux of the matter here. It has been so for the last two years. WPA has been respectful of our partners and we have not taken matters like this to the public. We have tried over and over again to get our partners to meet and so we can iron out some of these matters,”Hinds said.

Asked why he wanted the WPA to be consulted now, Hinds said the party gave the government the benefit of the doubt that there was malice in failing to consult but “when it came down to the Roopnaraine thing, we thought that that was blatant and that the line had been crossed and we needed to speak out publicly.

With that party hinting strongly that Roopnaraine’s new portfolio amounts to a demotion, even on the basis of budgetary allocation, executive members Hinds and Tabitah Sarabo- Halley shied away from saying whether they were available for ministerial office.”Until we hear from the President a description of the ministry and we could make a real rational judgement, I would want to hold on that (assessment) but I will argue that because the Education Ministry was such a substantive ministry- it probably had the highest spending allotment in the budget, it is hard to see how the other ministry could compare with that but we would rather to wait until we understand the exact role of the ministry before we make a real assessment,”Ogunseye added.

Though Roopnaraine remains  a senior minister in the Ministry of the Presidency’s Department of the Public Service, the WPA plans to raise the issue of having a separate ministry when APNU’s executive meets on July 22, 2017 for the first time in two years.

Dr. Hinds labelled as “insensitive” the decision to announce Dr. Roopnaraine departure from the Education Ministry on June 13, 2017- the death anniversary of Dr. Walter Rodney who was assassinated in 1980 in walkie-talkie bomb-blast at the height of a civil rebellion against the then People’s National Congress-led dictatorship.

“To announce the reassignment of a WPA minister on that day was extremely insensitive and we in the WPA believe that this has to do with something larger than what happened on that day. We feel generally in this country that those who control power have not been respectful of Walter Rodney’s memories and contributions to this country,”” said Hinds.

President Granger’s PNC-Reform is the largest, most dominant and influential party in the APNU and the APNU+Alliance For Change-led administration.  Despite partisan feelings, Hinds said “those in power”should respect Rodney- “easily the most famous”Guyanese, Caribbean, African and Third World scholar and political activist of the late 20th century.

Hinds said the WPA did not raise that “contentious”issue in a meeting with the President last week Saturday but plan to do in next month’s meeting. “We are firm in our belief that Walter Rodney was assassinated because of his political activity  and we hold  the government and State of that time responsibility for Walter Rodney’s assassination. We are very clear about that!

But we believe that 38 years on, that if we are  to truly honour Walter Rodney who was a patriot, who was concerned about the direction of this country, that we will not use his assassination as a barrier to bringing the country together but to use his memory, his works as a means of bringing the country together,”said Hinds, a one-time radical activist in the 1970s and 1980s.

Dr. Hinds said his party had not been involved or consulted in shaping the education sector, partly due to no APNU meetings. He said Dr. Roopnaraine was also given a free hand to manage the Ministry of Education.