IT SEEMS that not just this Caribbean Community member state, Guyana, but also Trinidad and Tobago, is currently facing challenges resulting from so-called ‘wild men” politicking.
In the case of the twin-island republic, an hour’s flying time from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, the current focus is on the President of the Oilfields Workers Trade
Union (OWTU), Ancel Roget, who appears to relish his mass media image as a militant, “angry leader”.
During a ‘Labour Day’ march last Thursday, the OWTU’s president, known for a passionate dislike of the People’s Partnership Government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, declared that T&T was being “run on remote by a cabal,” and warned that the country was heading for the biggest set-up workers have ever seen.
And while the Anglican Dean, Knolly Clarke, was lamenting during a funeral service for a murder victim that the country had become “an angry nation” and was “in need of healing”, the Trinidad Express was editorially questioning “Roget’s motives” for causing the “panic buying” of fuel last Monday.
In response to media reports that workers of state-owned Petrotrin had gone on strike, the Union disagreed with an assurance from the company‘s management that there were sufficient supplies of gas and, therefore, no need for any panic buying.
As noted by the ‘Express’, it turned out that the Petrorin management “was speaking the truth while Mr Roget was being disingenuous…”
He may be “satisfied his action (in misrepresenting the availability of gas) had gained the union some headlines needed to advance its self-seeking propaganda…”
As reasoned by the ‘Express’, “whatever happens next, motorists would be well advised to ignore Mr Roget, who is apparently seeking to further his own interests -- which may not be the same as his union’s -- by these shenanigans. But the OWTU president badly miscalculates if he thinks the general public will blame Petrotrin rather than the OWTU and its workers…”
In Guyana, the “wild” or irresponsible politically-motivated behaviour may not be as specifically directed at a single individual in the case of OWTU and Petrotrin.
Here it extends to various elements in the opposition parties (APNU and AFC); the chairman of the Region 10 Council, Sharma Solomon, and political advisors like Aubrey Norton, once quite influential in the main opposition People’s National CongressReform (PNCR).
Corbin’s ‘wild men’ warning
Before the implosion of the political crisis in the bauxite town of Linden in July -- that originally surfaced as a protest over the government’s announced intention to implement a phased hike in electricity tariff to eventually achieve equalisation with consumers across the entire nation -- there was a pertinent political warning:
It came from the former leader of the PNCR, Robert Corbin, perhaps the most ‘grounded’ of key figures of the party of Forbes Burnham, when delivering his farewell address at the party’s 17th Biennial Delegates Congress last July.
Corbin, a lawyer, thought it necessary to sound a warning to the Linden community, a traditional political stronghold of the party: “Beware,” he said without calling names, “of the wild men in your midst who have their nefarious agendas…
“As the struggle continues at Linden, our activists must be aware of and not be misled by those who seek to use their genuine problem to satisfy their own partisan political agendas or to achieve public recognition…”
It was “the wild men”, he added, “who years ago had violated the party’s plan during a protest march (in Gorgetown) by leading protesters into the compound of the Office of the President (then Bharrat Jagdeo) that resulted in the deaths of eight supporters of the PNCR.
Before the 17th PNCR congress was concluded, it became quite evident to more than the party’s loyalists that among those “wild political men” were elements who had been sidelined as parliamentarians following last November’s general election and whose influence on the party’s decision-making councils was now of no significance.
One of the more recurring names of those politically sidelined by the PNCR after the election at which the incumbent PPP/C retained the government but lost control by one seat of the 65-member parliament, is that of Aubrey Norton. He has been featuring since the campaign against the proposed hike in electricity tariff as an acknowledged “adviser” to the Region 10 Council chairman, Sharma Solomon.
The Council’s chairman was heavily leaning for guidance on strategies for actions on the ex-influential PNCR decision-maker in pre and post-turbulent politics in Linden, including his amusing shenanigans during negotiations for an appropriate end to the crisis.
Differently, the minority Alliance For Change leader Ramjattan, had also found a reliable “ally” in Norton, as well as in Solomon during the month-long Linden crisis.
The grim data including three deaths, reportedly by police firing at demonstrators; injuries suffered by at least a dozen others; widespread destruction by arson of private and state-owned properties, amounting to billions of dollars, were to subsequently form part of the terms of reference of a high-level independent Commission of Inquiry involving well known and reputable legal personalities of Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
This inquiry is scheduled to get under way later this month and, hopefully, its “evidenced-based” findings should, according to chairman Lensley Wolfe, former Chief Justice of Jamaica, be available for presentation to President Donald Ramotar, in November.
In the meantime, in what’s taking the shape of a ‘wild west’ political development, the Region 10 Council chairman, Solomon, and “adviser” Norton have been openly providing encouragement for a just-held “election” by residents of the Kwakwani area to run their own local government affairs.
This development followed the government’s revocation of Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) from the control of Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) in ongoing confrontational politics and long overdue nation-wide local government elections.