Homeless man asleep on sidewalk outside Parliament Buildings
Georgetown, Guyana – October 2014
Photo Credit: Mark Jacobs
On Monday, November 10, 2014, the Guyana government entered into shutdown mode. Facing the threat of a “no-confidence” motion from a combined opposition against his administration, President Donald Ramotar “prorogued” the 65-member National Assembly or Parliament. He invoked a provision from the 1980 Constitution, framed by the former autocratic government of President Forbes Burnham. Such a drastic move could throw the country into a state of limbo for up to six months.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War, the Indo-Guyanese dominated party of Marxist Cheddi Jagan finally came to power in 1992 and has remained in power since then. Government corruption, unsolved criminal activity, police brutality, and extra-judicial killings – common during the Burnham dictatorship – continue unabated.
The opposition parties, who now hold a single-seat majority vote with 33 of the 65 seats, question exorbitant expenditures made by the Minister of Finance without parliamentary approval, as well as the absence of transparency about infrastructure projects costing millions of dollars.
Another contentious issue is the government’s violation of the Constitution in not holding municipal elections since 1994.
The recent disclosure of the impunity of high-ranking officials has further fanned the flames of discontent.
If the President and the opposition cannot resolve these issues, general elections due in 2016 will have to be brought forward to 2015. Perhaps, the President and his ruling political party are counting on regaining their majority stranglehold of Parliament. The current impasse is a gamble for all parties and, more so, for the people of Guyana.
The captioned photo of a black homeless male, sleeping in a prone position on the pavement in front of Guyana’s Parliament Buildings, symbolizes the government’s disregard for the people it serves. The black homeless male also represents a black marginalized underclass: without work, without a home, without hope for a better future.
Power corrupts. President Ramotar’s suspension of Parliament serves only to deflect the population from his administration’s corruption, unaccountability, and impunity. The people of Guyana are facing a moral crisis.