IT may come as a surprise to citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as other Caricom states grappling with their own domestic socioeconomic and political challenges, to learn that the parlia- mentary opposition in Guyana has initiated a "no confidence" motion in parliament against the country's Minister of Home Affairs (Clement Rohee) rather than one with a wider national dimension at a time of claimed political "crisis".
Last Wednesday, the 65-member National Assembly, where the combined opposition—A Partnership for National Unity (APNU, with 26 seats, and Alliance for Change, seven)—control a one-seat majority against the governing People's Progressive Party's 32 representatives, started debate on the no-confidence motion against Minister Rohee.
The motion, which was approved for debate by the Speaker (Raphael Trotman, leader of the AFC), without the normal official notification and established parliamentary procedures, was deemed by the governing party's Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, as "dangerous" in the precedent it has created.
Standing in the name of APNU's chairman and Opposition Leader, retired Brigadier of the Guyana Defence Force, David Granger, the no-confidence motion was triggered by the shooting deaths of three demonstrators by the police and injuries suffered by a dozen others last Tuesday in the bauxite mining town of Linden.
The town is a known stronghold of the main opposition People's National Congress (PNC), dominant party in APNU. And the tragedies, resulted from violent clashes between the police and organised protesters, rallying against a phased period for implementing new electricity rates.
By the following day, the police/demonstrators conflict was followed by acts of widespread looting, arson, robberies and other unlawful behaviour over two days, even as the government and opposition grappled to reach consensus for an independent probe, with August 2 identified as the date to finalise the terms of reference.
Both Minister Rohee and Opposition Leader Granger had earlier separately called for the removal from Linden of the police commander in charge when violent demonstrations and deaths occurred.
For his part, Police Commissioner Leroy Brummel had stressed that no political instructions had been given to the Force.
The Police Commissioner had also warned against the rush to judgment ahead of the coming independent probe.
Further, the government had announced, prior to the debate in parliament, to put on hold the proposed new electricity rates for Linden and disclosed new initiatives, discussed with Linden stakeholders and others, for economic development in Region Ten where the mining town is located.
Therefore, given the strategic geographical location of Linden for transportation and economic activities between the interior region and the capital, Georgetown and wider coastal areas, a question of relevance is:
Why did the opposition opt for the narrow focus in its demand for resignation of the Minister of Home Affairs and appeared detached from the negative social and economic consequences of the political crisis as erupted in Linden?
Further, the mover of the no-confidence motion would have been aware of the deep concerns expressed in talks between Head of State President Donald Ramotar and representatives of major stakeholders for efforts to defuse rising social tension and avoid spreading economic dislocations.
Indeed, Opposition Leader Granger would have also been aware of the constitutional hurdle to be overcome for the removal of the Minister. The Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandall, had already informed the media that the politics of the no-confidence motion was a "nonstarter" for required presidential compliance.
Perhaps there is a factor that readers should know about the politics that inspired calls for Minister Rohee's resignation since the uprising in Linden. And APNU's Granger is at the centre of it all, including intense lobbying efforts to be elected yesterday as new leader of the PNC, the dominant partner of APNU.
Should he succeed—as expected—in defeating his primary challenger, Carl Greenidge (a former Finance Minister), Granger would then be wearing three political hats—Opposition Leader in parliament; APNU's chairman, and now the big prize-leader of the PNC—the party founded and built by the late Forbes Burnham.
With such an awareness of Guyana's domestic party politicking, citizens of Caricom states may perhaps better appreciate Granger's political choreography.
First, the haste to spring his no-confidence motion against Rohee—with the cooperation of APNU's parliamentary partner, AFC. Then put further debate on hold until today—the day after the PNC's delegates congress at which he expects to be elected as new leader.
The political manoeuvrings were not as clever as the government's opponents may have felt.
In the meanwhile, Guyana's major stakeholders-irrespective of political persuasion-keep worrying over the negative social and economic consequences for a nation that had finally overcome the burden of being a highly indebted poor country of the Caribbean over many years, to now be recording, for four consecutive years, an enviable five percent annual growth rate.
We shall see what develops after last weekend's delegates congress of the PNC and today's resumption of the "no-confidence" motion against Minister Rohee.