When politicians become intoxicated with power
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AFTER absenting themselves for the first six sittings of the current Parliament, members of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) have finally taken up their seats.
We have always felt that the boycott could not be sustained and that the PPP/C was looking for a way out of that initial strategy. It obviously saw that the boycott strategy was not embraced by all of its leadership and that its rank and file had little appetite for that form of oppositional politics. Contrary to the party’s expectation, there was no mass surge of public anger by its followers.
No doubt the political scientists and commentators would have to figure out why this did not materialise.
The PPP/C entered Parliament amidst a cloud of illegitimacy. At least three of its members, including the leader, are before the courts on charges of political misconduct. This is the first time this has happened in Guyana.
Why the PPP chose to persist with these members is debatable. But it does betray a form of political courage or arrogance depending on where you sit in the political divide. Either way, it opens the party to the kind of ridicule that we could ill-afford at this time. As we saw during Monday’s sitting, this ridicule has found its way in the People’s House. What occurred there was more than parliamentary banter — something that distracts from the seriousness of the institution.
Why has the PPP taken its baggage to Parliament? The PPP would have been better advised to drop the accused members – at least the two back-benchers. The charge against Mr Jagdeo, though criminal in nature, arises out of less scandalous circumstances. It is not that the other two members are central to the party’s leadership; their absence would be hardly missed by the party and the Parliament.
This brings us to Mr Jagdeo. He is the new Opposition Leader. Whether one likes him or not or whether he is a liability or not, one thing is certain – his presence is a barrier to consensus. It is not usual for one who has served in the highest office then moved on to other things to come back into the fray. Mr Jagdeo’s presence does two things: first, it signals a total lack of confidence in the immediate past leader, Donald Ramotar, who is not even a Member of Parliament. One would have expected that he would have been given the opportunity to lead the team in Parliament. But, from all accounts, he was driven out in the ugliest way to make room for the return of Mr Jagdeo. Once again, it would seem that another leader has become victim of the politics of ambition and intrigue. This is bound to affect the way some of his own members respond to him and how the members and supporters of the coalition Government view him.
The second consequence of Mr Jagdeo’s leadership is the highlighting of the controversy that follows him wherever he goes in the country’s political landscape.
Make no bones about it, he is well respected and admired by a wide cross-section of the membership and supporters of the PPP. However, justified or not, members of the Government side of the House have nothing but disdain for him. This makes it extremely difficult for compromise. In fact, it ensures that the Parliament becomes a persistently conflictual medium. At its best it has not been a place of camaraderie, but with Mr Jagdeo as Opposition Leader at the helm of one of the parties, one can only hope that there is peace in the valley.
Why parties continue to put their interest above that of the nation would be forever debated. Here in Guyana we suffer from the worst of it.
Our parties are not sobered by loss of office. In fact, they seem to become more intoxicated. When will all the talk of the people’s interest really come to mean something uplifting? Have we not paid enough as a nation for the folly of our politicians?
Or are we witnessing the unfolding of another chapter in Guyana’s history, where our politicians are caught up in a dangerous orgy of power intoxication, at the expense of the people’s interest? Let’s hope our politicians allow sober heads and maturity to prevail in the august House as they dispense with the nation’s business, and with the people’s interest at heart.

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