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There is conflict of interest in being opposition MP and serving current administration at same time

There is conflict of interest in being opposition MP and serving current administration at same time

Dear Editor,

I write in response to Mr. Ralph Ramkarran’s letter, `My political views and commitments are not for sale’ (Stabroek News, 24 August 2020). Whilst I am grateful to have been heard and to have been offered an assurance of his good faith, I am still left somewhat disillusioned.

As identified by Nick Harewood in his Stabroek News letter dated 24 August 2020, our national poet, Martin Carter, used the expression: “a mouth is always muzzled by the food it eats to live…”. This piece of poetry brilliantly illustrates what it means to have a conflict of interest.

I charged Mr. Ramkarran with returning home to nest with the PPP. This is because the PPP is his former party and not because I suspect that he is lacking in resource. Surely, a conflict of interest can be financial but the case with Mr. Ramkarran is one of ideological bias given his former alignment to the party. The APNU+AFC are Mr. Ramkarran’s political opponents. Therefore, no one could have accused him of “nesting” with them because one can only nest at home (his home being his initial party: the PPP/C). To his credit, he asserts to the Guyanese people that he is not for sale.

Mr. Ramkarran has identified that Mr. Shuman’s appointment does not conflict with the internal agreement of the ANUG, LJP & TNM partnership. However, this does not speak to the wider conflict of interest between sitting in the legislative opposition and serving a current administration at the same time – which is the crux of the matter. Allow me to clarify that this is a matter of principle rather than a matter of actual bias or a matter confined to these particular circumstances. As a nation, we simply should not set the precedent to allow any member of the parliamentary opposition to be remunerated by any administration. To allow such practices is to leave the door ajar for blatant corruption. Political parties would well be able to offer MPs special appointments in return for either acts of corruption or honest work. Mr Ramkarran asserts he belongs to the latter group and as accurately pointed out, Mr. Shuman is capable of speaking for himself. Therefore, we await similar assurances from the newly appointed advisor. Otherwise, we are left to roost with our thoughts.

As may be observed in my initial letter on this matter [`Shuman’s appointment as advisor conflicts with parliamentary role’ Stabroek News, 23rd August 2020], I recognise the expertise and experience  that Mr. Ramkarran has to offer. This is not at all a matter of whether he or Mr. Shuman are qualified for their respective posts. They are both quite capable of being advisors. This is not an issue in contention for me.

Mr. Ramkarran noted that Mr. Carl Greenidge invited him to serve as an advisor during the term of the coalition government. This is certainly a show of good statesmanship that was free of any conflict of interest because at that time Mr. Ramkarran was not standing on a mandate to occupy an independent third party seat. However, those circumstances have since  changed and to serve as this new and united force in parliament it is important to remain free from any perceived or actual bias. It is important to be demonstrably independent. I simply do not wish for the third parties to alienate a vast group of Guyanese by flocking with either side of the oppressive two- party system. Particularly when they are already under suspicion of being a covert arm of the PPP.

They should learn from the AFC which now has to share some of the PNC’s burdensome legacy. The small parties should not fall into this same trap to become associated with the  tarnished legacy of the PPP. I’m afraid it might be too late for some Guyanese but the ANUG, LJP & TNM partnership must find a way to distance their cosy relationship with the current administration or risk being seen as an extension of the nest.

Yours faithfully,

Othniel Lewis

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