Jun 13, 2018  Features / ColumnistsFreddie Kissoon

 Today is yet another anniversary of the death of Walter Rodney. Last year, there was a comical situation in the press, whereby the invitation to the event listed the sponsors as “Friends of Walter Rodney.” Walter Rodney was de facto head of the Working People’s Alliance. At the height of his activism, he was generally perceived as the WPA and the WPA as him.
Walter Rodney’s party, the WPA, is part of the current government. Yet in 2017 his party did not sponsor his death anniversary but his friends. But who were his friends that organized the gathering? For example, present co-leader of the WPA, Rupert Roopnaraine was not there in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The question which the WPA ignored is why the WPA did not host the event. And if it could not, why did a group named WPA Overseas not do the job?
Sadly, this year there will be no 38th anniversary commemoration. This year’s absence highlights once more, the caricature WPA has become. Why any group of persons wants to self-humiliate in this way is really beyond the comprehension of even great geniuses.
freddie-kissoon-300x273Since the victory of APNU at the 2015 general elections, no government mandarin has officially participated in the Rodney death anniversary event. The AFC is not interested in hosting the event, neither is the PNC. But the PNC is in a coalition with the WPA and they both have State power. Protocol should involve the presence of at least one PNC big wig. One can understand if the AFC stays away. There is no political interconnection between the AFC and WPA. But the PNC is the political partner with the WPA in government. The Rodney death anniversary does not have to be a State event to have a high level PNC leader show his/her face.
The hard reality is that the upper echelons of the PNC do not care for the Rodney legacy. The fact that they are in a coalition with the WPA is not a contradiction. It was a realpolitik pact in 2011 for the purpose of dethroning the PPP. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with that. In Italy at the moment, a far right party and a left wing party have joined to form the government. In the UK, a few years back, a left liberal party formed the government with the Conservative party that they had nothing in common with.
The difference in the UK at that time and in Italy at the moment, as with all coalition governments, especially Israel, there is a water-tight guarantee that each party in the coalition will have some of their agenda items implemented and pioneered by their own ministers. Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) formed the government with the Conservative party in the UK with an inflexible demand which the Labour Party had refused the Lib Dems.
The government must hold a referendum to determine if the British people want proportional representation over first-past-the post. Both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party preferred first-past-the-post. But the Lib Dems were at a disadvantage. In each election, their total votes were impressive, but did not translate into seats in parliament. This, of course, is one of the disadvantages of the constituency system. The referendum was held and the Lib Dems lost. But it was held because a member of the coalition demanded it.
WalterIn coalition arrangements, parties in power must be given space to pursue their agenda. In Guyana, we are still to see what or where or with whom is the AFC’s agenda. With the WPA it is a most sickening situation. The WPA has a ministry which, based on agreed principles, recognizes that it is in charge of that portfolio. So why can’t the ministry the WPA controls hold an event to commemorate the death anniversary of Rodney?
The AFC and the PNC can say they do not agree with it. They are not required to attend, but at the end of the day both the AFC and PNC have to understand that coalition government is about each unit doing things that other units cannot and must not stop. If that mutual consent is absent, you no longer have a coalition government.
Many political observers argue that this is indeed the reality. For example, a Bill to amend the sentence structure of the drug law was tabled in the name of the AFC since 2016 and in fact was actually on the Order Paper. Michael Carrington of the AFC has publicly stated that the PNC doesn’t want it.
What does the ministry assigned to the WPA actually do? Will the minister attend the event if there is one today?