proposal on shared governance which embodies the concept of a cabinet
comprising all the major parties, and the re-introduction of a non-executive
Head of State appointed from the party with the largest popular
vote, has been tabled by the PNCR at the invitation of the Social
Partners. The document which is described as not being 'written
in stone', is seen as a significant step in the party's embrace
of shared governance, given its novel and detailed approach.
A committee headed by parliamentarian and central executive committee
member, James McAllister developed the proposals, which were endorsed
by the party's central executive committee at a recent meeting.
The other members of McAllister's committee were Vincent Alexander,
Ivor Allen, Hamley Case, Stanley Ming, Lloyd Joseph, Deborah Backer
and Sherwood Lowe.
proposals outlined in the paper are said to be consistent with the
PNC's submission to the Constitution Reform Commission in which
it advocated "inclusivity" as a form of government that
would be relevant to the problems that were facing the nation. It
identified "inclusivity" as a system of governance that
would involve all interests, including the majority party and the
opposition. The contents are also said to be consistent with the
views of PNCR leader, Desmond Hoyte. In his presentation to the
party's congress in August he told his audience, "an adjusted
system of governance for our country - whether we call it 'power
sharing', 'shared governance', 'inclusive governance', or any other
name - appears to be an idea whose time has come... We should not
shy away from examining possible modalities for a transformed system
of governance that meets the needs of our peculiar situation; nor
should we be diffident, as a party, about putting forward proposals
as part of any national debate on this subject."
PNCR proposals call for all significant political groups of society
to be represented in the national executive decision-making process:
"Proportional representation (as determined by periodic national
elections) should be used to fix each party's level of involvement
in the national government." In addition, the document recommends
that measures be put in place to ensure the appropriate representation
of special groups (eg, women, Amerindians, youths) in the national
the draft calls for predetermined structures and procedures to "be
enshrined in the constitution or in any multiparty agreement to
facilitate decision-making by consensus and to resolve disputes
in the national executive."
Another suggestion is that the larger the margin of victory of the
winning party, the fewer should be the inhibitions to the exercise
of its powers in the multiparty executive. In order to prevent foot-dragging
and undue delays, the design of executive and legislative decision-making
processes should incorporate decision deadlines beyond which special
mechanisms would be triggered, says the paper. The proposals also
say that the parliamentary committee on constitutional reform must
keep the new political arrangement under constant review through
its own research and analysis, and by encouraging and examining
submissions from the public. The shared governance approach "should
infuse all aspects of national decision-making that have to do with
resource allocation (tender boards, state boards, land selection
committees, etc)" and that the "government must be subject
to independent, powerful and effective mechanisms of oversight and
scrutiny." The submission states too that the new system of
governance must mandate the participation of the public and civic
society in national decision-making and expressly provide mechanisms
for the economic empowerment of the disadvantaged. There must too
be broad agreement on a national development programme.
PNCR contends that there are a number of facilitative conditions
for the success of multiparty governance. These include: the ability
of the major parties to sit and discuss rationally as they did in
the Constitutional review process; the presence of strong "partiocracy"
(the situation when parties can control or manage the actions of
their supporters, thereby maximising the chances that agreements
struck among party leaders will be respected by most party members);
the interests of international stakeholders (financial institutions)
in preventing failure; and the convergence of ideologies among the
A multiparty Cabinet/Council of Ministers: Concerning
the formation of the multiparty coalition government, the PNCR proposes
that the partners in the government must first work out and sign
a Coalition Agreement. The agreement must encompass a policy platform
(based on the national development programme and a merger of ideas
from party manifestos), portfolio allocation and party responsibilities,
and the decision-making structures and procedures within the executive.
Its proposals also call for the coalition agreement to be publicised,
as the public then could monitor the process and assess the compliance
of coalition partners to the spirit and provisions of the agreement
and the constitution. The PNCR says, "The primary objective
of the coalition decision-making process must be to facilitate consensus
and to avoid surprises (significant unannounced unilateral action)
by setting up rigid mechanisms for communication, consultation and
dispute resolution within the executive itself."
the allocation of the ministerial portfolios, the PNCR suggestion
is that the Prime Minister should be appointed from the party that
obtains the largest vote at the national elections, and the number
of ministerial positions a party holds would be dependent on the
support it received at the elections. However, it says to qualify
for a ministerial appointment, a party must have gained a minimum
of five per cent of the votes cast at the elections.
PNCR suggests too that the number of ministries and their responsibilities
should be fixed by Acts of Parliament and that in the distribution
of the portfolios, the parties qualifying to participate in the
Council of Ministers should attempt to decide on allocation through
discussion within a specified time-frame. It suggests that in the
event that no agreement is reached on the distribution of the portfolios
that an alternating pick system be employed based on the principle
of largest remainder, with the party with the largest number of
votes in the polls being granted the first pick. The PNCR proposes
that the decision-making process in the governing executive should
be a mixture of collective responsibility (where consensus has been
reached) and single-party responsibility (where no consensus has
been reached or where unilateral actions are allowed).
Council of Ministers/ Cabinet would be the highest executive decision-making
body. It would comprise all ministers of government, parliamentary
secretaries and (probably) government advisors. The Council would
be the point through which all cabinet matters must be channelled
for discussion and approval. These matters, the PNCR says, should
be all policy issues that affect government's financial position
or commitments; matters concerning the machinery of government;
decisions and actions, allowed under the statutory powers granted
to ministers, that would affect the collective interest of government;
proposals involving new legislation or regulations; government responses
to select committee recommendations; controversial matters; all
but the most minor public appointments; the release of important
government documents, papers and reports; and matters affecting
the interests of a number of ministries. The proposals suggest that
the Prime Minister should chair the Council of Ministers which is
to meet at stipulated times. They suggest too that the quorum for
a meeting of the council should be two-thirds of the members of
each of the major parties.
A Standing Coalition Management Committee
document advocates that decisions should be based on consensus and
where this is not possible the matter should be sent to the Standing
Coalition Management Committee (SCMC), which the PNCR considers
should comprise "the leaders (and possibly also senior party
members) of the political parties in the Council." "It
is therefore a forum of summiteers (similar to the current inter-party
dialogue), with two important roles: overall management of the coalition
arrangement and to serve as the highest forum for dispute resolution".
proposals call for the SCMC, which the Prime Minister would chair,
to meet as often as necessary; it could be summoned at the request
of any party leader in the coalition. It is suggested that to form
a quorum for SCMC meetings "all the major parties must be represented."
As to the main areas for consultation, co-ordination and negotiation
among parties, the PNCR wants the establishment of Standing Ministerial
Working Groups, which it describes as sub- committees of the Council
of Ministers, comprising, at a minimum, key ministers from the coalition
groups, selected MPs, civil service heads and government advisers.
recommends that mandates of sub-committees should be broad enough
to facilitate co-ordination among related government ministries.
It suggests as possible groupings: foreign affairs, economic policy,
and social policy. It says, "From the experience of other countries,
working groups are most effective as informal decision-making forums
(referred to in Finland as 'government evening classes'). Their
fundamental objective is to process issues so that they need only
be formally dealt with at full meetings of the Council of Ministers".
proposals explain that the relevant Ministerial Working Groups are
to be the first point of inter-party discussion and bargaining,
for all initiatives (whether bills, policies, etc) from the various
ministries before an issue comes before the Council of Ministers/Cabinet.
It explains too that the council could delegate authority to a subcommittee
to make final decisions. With regard to the resolution procedure
for unresolved issues, which it says hopefully should be rare and
would have to be managed to avoid destabilising the government,
the basic requirement would be that those issues should relate to
different party positions, and not to differences in the opinions
of individual ministers. As a consequence it says, "Dissociation
of individual Ministers from Council decisions outside the agreed
coalition processes should be discouraged."
suggests that unresolved issues should be treated differently depending
on whether a member party of the government identifies them as inimical
to race relations in the country, or as issues of "party distinction."
non-executive head of State: According to the PNCR proposals, the non-executive
head of state would constitute a moral, symbolic and, in a few cases,
statutory authority standing over and above the dynamics of party
politics.The person appointed after a multiparty vote in parliament
would hold office initially for a period of seven years that would
ensure the presidency straddles the holding of elections, thereby
reducing the pressure on the office-holder to pander to parties
in the hope of re-appointment. The submission provides that the
president should only be removed by a weighted parliamentary vote
and on specified grounds. The functions of the head of state, according
to the proposals, would include assenting to bills; acting as Commander-in-Chief
of the Armed Forces; acting as a mediator in unresolved political
disputes; and appointing presidential commissions of inquiry into
suspected government misconduct.
Commander-in-Chief, the President would be required to act only
on the advice of the Defence Board, which must include in its composition
the leaders of the main political parties in the government. In
the event of unresolved political disputes where a member party
of the government identifies an issue as harmful to race relations,
the proposals call for the president to make a judgement on the
issue after seeking the advice of the Ethnic Relations Commission.
The commission would be required to hold public hearings on any
guidelines for correction it recommends. "Where the Head of
State, acting in accordance with the ERC, rules that the measure
is indeed harmful to race relations, the coalition partner must
withdraw and amend the measure along the proposed guidelines before
resubmitting it to the Ministerial working group." Alternatively
if the head of state rules that the measure is not harmful to race
relations, the matter could be implemented and considered a collective
decision of the Council.
What role for parliament? In discussing the role of parliament
under a system of shared governance, the PNCR says that the executive
government "will still be accountable to Parliament" but
that "because of the nature of the decision-making process
within the executive (especially its consensus-driven relations),
the dynamics of parliament inevitably will change." The document
envisages that the parliament should still be required to perform
the functions of passing legislation and granting statutory powers,
appropriating and empowering government to use public funds, and
scrutinising and conducting inquiries into the policy, administration
and expenditure of government.
says: "In Guyana, the same parties that will dominate the government
will also dominate the parliament. Given also the existence of strong
party control over MP's (partiocracy), the parliament will likely
endorse and support the joint decisions of the coalition government.
This situation becomes acceptable, as these decisions would have
already been processed by inter-party negotiations in the Council
of Ministers and in Select Committee where MP's can make their input.
However, there should be provision for MP's (especially regional
MP's) not involved in the NEC to dissent."
The PNCR however recommends that the "the structure and functions
of parliament should not in any way be weakened or diluted, as it
is the only forum for citizens, interest groups, independent MPs,
non-government parties and other stakeholders to influence the actions
considers that because parliament is also the largest window through
which the public can see into the operations of government, a number
of features should supplement the recent constitutional amendments
affecting it. One of the features, it says should be the requirement
that all government bills, after their first reading, be sent to
the appropriate select committee for public "hearing of evidence"
sessions. Exceptions would be made where a motion by the subject
minister is adopted that the bill should not go to select committee
because it is uncontroversial and no individual or group has formally
indicated its intention to give evidence on the bill before the
feature the PNCR suggests is for provisions to be made in the Standing
Orders for periodic General Debates in parliament during which MPs
could speak on any issue of their own choice.
It suggests too the reactivation of the practice of public petitions
in Guyanese politics so that citizens are encouraged to submit petitions
to parliament on matters affecting them. It says that select committees
should be the forum for processing these petitions and to make recommendations
to the full House.
An accountable executive: In relation to the select committees,
the PNCR proposals say that as envisaged by the recent constitutional
amendments, government accountability to the parliament must be
mainly actualised through the select committees. "In the new
environment, it becomes critical that the chairmanship of these
committees be opposite to the parties holding responsibility for
the corresponding ministries."
introduction of the system of shared governance the PNCR says, would
inevitably redefine opposition politics in Guyana. It says, "The
political parties, which traditionally would be identified as the
opposition, will now be partners in the governing executive. The
inter-party political debate and discussion, therefore, would no
longer be conducted in the public domain but behind the closed doors
of the Council of Ministers."
the PNCR recognises as being an undesirable development and to address
it, the party suggests opening the government decision-making process
to public and civic society participation as well as scrutiny. To
reduce the possibility of the emergence of executive dictatorship
in the new multiparty government, the PNCR committee recommends
among other things that the select committee meetings should be
in the form of public hearings, bar exceptional circumstances. In
addition there should be mandatory consultation with stipulated
interest groups (regional MPs, trade unions, private sector, municipalities,
etc) on major government policies and measures.
address the issue of government accountability, the PNCR suggests
that, given that the traditional opposition parties would be in
the government, the minutes of meetings of the full cabinet, bar
sensitive issues of national security, foreign affairs and trade
should be published; freedom of information legislation should be
enacted; powers should be granted to the president to commission
inquiries into government misconduct; and more effective and robust
government oversight authorities, such as the auditor general and
the constitution commissions should operate; and the scope and powers
of the Ombudsman should be redefined.
PNCR also suggests that the constitutional provisions in relation
to local government, constitution commissions, those governing individual
rights and freedoms and providing for the independence of the judiciary
and the auditor general should remain essentially unchanged.
The party proposes too that a referendum be held after a period
of ten years, to determine whether the shared governance arrangement
should be continued.
Note: We do not believe that
a shared government is the solution to Guyana’s political problem
for a number of reasons.
Power sharing is not an alternative or substitution for democracy.
Democracy has no substitution or alternative form of manifestation.
The history of power-shared government worldwide shows it to a temporary
form of government, an act constituted into being out of very desperate
situations in which the power-shared government always exist in
a state that lacks longevity. Nowhere in this world is there a power-shared
government that has existed for more than 10 years. Not India, not,
Israel, not Ireland. In fact, both Ireland and Israel have had their
power-sharing government disbanded recently. Israel will now have
new elections in early 2003. Why these inherent problems? Simple;
the fundamental, basic problems such as racial or religious or partisan
differences are still in existence and, with partisan gridlock within
a “power-shared” government, it is these fundamental differences
that resurfaces to create problems, fractures. As long as the basic,
fundamental hatred, envy, racial suspicions exist underneath, power
sharing can only be a short-term reality.
If the majority of people in Guyana agree to power sharing, we at
this site will unquestionably support such a call. However, we anticipate,
given the aforementioned points, and the rancid, brutal history
that exists between the PPP and PNC, and the racial problems (now
taking on violent forms, e.g., Black militancy), the only long term
solution besides a standard democratic government, is separation
(partition). Eventually, when power sharing fails and the
death rate by political and criminal violence plummets, then people
will talk about partition in the public. Right now, they speak of
it, but in “hush hush” tones in their private quarters, because
they know that the PNC and PPP cannot work together. Certainly not
for a lifetime. “Desperation is a tender trap. It gets us every
time,” the Irish rock band U2 once wrote. I think we should remember
It is in the interest of the PNC to seek power sharing because they
have no other legitimate route of acquiring some among of power.
It is in their interest to acquires some power instead of not having
any (being out of government totally). They know this; it is the
only reason why they call for this today, and not 1992 or before
1992. In fact, this has nothing to do with the PNC; if the PNC was
a white-oriented race, or the party was the PNJ, it would have no
other choice other than the usual democratic form of the ballot
or power-sharing. This attitude towards the acquiring of power is,
in itself, fragile and therefore dangerous.
report above, originally titled, “PNC/R for sets out blueprint for shared governance,”
was posted in the Stabroek News, December 8, 2002. All credits
to the paper.]
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