Power Sharing: Towards a New Political Culture
guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com

 

Is the idea of power-sharing utopian?

Posted July 22nd. 2004

Let us start by acknowledging that there is no such thing as a perfect system of governance. As Winston Churchill once put it, democracy is a pretty flawed system but it's better than the rest. But idealists will continue to dream of that perfect government where the hassle and clamour of a democracy are absent and all is peace and love.

Let us next agree that in all societies, even the most peaceful and developed, thinking persons continue to examine the existing methods of government and look for ways to improve them.

The People's National Congress Reform PNCR has put to the ruling People's Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) a proposal for executive power-sharing. What this means in essence is that if it were accepted the PPP/C and the PNCR would after the next elections share the government according to the proportion of votes they obtained. This proposal was prompted partly by the analysis that if ethnic voting patterns persist it may be difficult for the PNCR to win an election, though the increasing Amerindian vote may make this argument less cogent than it might otherwise have been. But the main argument is that power-sharing would put an end to the ethnic strife that continually threatens to make the country ungovernable by enabling the two main parties to work together.

In its response, the PPP/C argued that there had been important parliamentary reforms towards more inclusive governance and that there was not at this stage sufficient trust between the parties to make power-sharing feasible.

Can power-sharing work? Let us look at some of the arguments that have been raised against it. First of all, there is the danger of gridlock. The two parties may be unable to agree on certain essential matters like a budget or important laws. How would that problem be solved? On the face of it, the party which had won the most votes at the election and had the most seats in the cabinet could decide the issue by a majority vote. But would that in every case be acceptable to the minority party? Clearly, measures could be devised requiring unanimity or giving veto powers on some issues and indeed the PNCR has come up with some such suggestions in its proposal. This is clearly an area that would require careful negotiation if a power-sharing agreement was to be reached to avoid the danger of gridlock.

Secondly, a PPP/C-PNCR coalition would leave only a nominal opposition. In Fiji, where power-sharing was tried and failed, in an effort to deal with this problem it was provided that backbenchers could speak against bills when they were debated in Parliament. Of course GAP, WPA and ROAR would provide some opposition in Parliament. But would this be adequate, given their limitations of resources and personnel? In effect, such a situation might put an enormous strain on institutions like the media to monitor government actions and keep ministers on their toes.

Thirdly, in the nature of the case most of the real issues would be settled in private discussions between the governing parties in a power-sharing cabinet so that there would be a real danger that parliament would be presented with a fait accompli and debates might be even more perfunctory than they already are.

Fourthly, power-sharing may harden rather than soften ethnic division by recognising ethnic blocs and ethnic leaders as their representatives. On the other hand, the working together could after a while create new alliances and respect.

Fifthly, suppose some ministers, on either side, are not performing well can the other side complain? This issue led to serious problems and real tensions in the A.N.R. Robinson 'one love' government in Trinidad.

Obviously, power-sharing is no panacea and no bed of roses. It would require a certain level of political culture, a willingness to compromise, and some sort of shared basic programme to make it work. One would have to say that based on current performances the outlook is not encouraging. Yet perhaps the exercise of working together could itself create a fresh impetus and goodwill and a level of stability that would permit development.

Sometimes, chances have to be taken in an effort to find a new plateau or paradigm. Power-sharing should be actively debated, not in the sloganeering terms in which the discussion has tended to be conducted so far, but in more detail considering some of the mechanisms and some of the pitfalls. It would be useful if some of the younger politicians, on both sides, could deal with some of the issues raised in the PNCR's proposal in more depth. As they stand, those proposals represent the most significant contribution to what should be an ongoing debate.


A clear strategy

Posted March 28th. 2004

In the last few years, important elements in the People's National Congress Reform came to accept that given the present political configuration it was not possible for the party to win an election. Two points must be noted here, which will be developed briefly below. First the party never had won a fair election on its own. Secondly, the conclusion assumes that the political configuration cannot be changed with a proper strategy and intensive campaigning.

Having come to that conclusion, the party appointed a committee to consider the question of power sharing. That committee crafted a reasonably detailed proposal for executive power sharing which was submitted to the ruling party, the People's Progressive Party Civic. The response of that party was essentially twofold, first it said that it was necessary to develop a much higher level of trust between the two parties than now exists for power sharing to be a viable proposition and secondly it suggested that executive power sharing was not the only form of a more inclusive governance and that, for example, some of the constitutional changes that had already been agreed which gave parliament more power, represented a devolution of power.

And there the matter has rested, there has been no further movement on this issue, in or outside of the dialogue process, and no discussions have taken place on the PNC's proposal.

Power sharing is not a straightforward solution as some of its proponents imply. It was not implemented in Fiji by the government despite a constitutional provision that required it. It has been aborted, for now at least, in Northern Ireland. It worked as a transitional mechanism in South Africa. It has worked in Switzerland and Belgium. In principle, it can work and it appears to provide an attractive solution to the impasse created by ethnically based voting patterns. But there are obvious theoretical objections to it. For example, it can lead to gridlock in the power sharing cabinet, it hardens ethnic division rather than softens it by recognising and adopting the status quo of ethnic representation, where there is a grand coalition (e.g. PPPC/PNCR) it virtually destroys a parliamentary opposition, putting the burden of opposition to and criticism of governmental measures on civil society, and it tends to create a politics of deals behind closed doors between the ethnic overlords which are presented to parliament as a fait accompli. In its proposal, the PNCR seeks to respond to some of these obvious dangers to the model.

Those who now strongly advocate power sharing have argued that it should be tried , even if only as a temporary measure, in an effort to create some level of political stability and economic development. They argue that the Westminster model (with the Presidential variation) of winner-take-all has failed given ethnic voting patterns and has proved divisive. They say that it will create a breathing space. Critics point out that a majority will still exist in the power sharing cabinet with all the potential that creates for discord. In other words, the problem is being pushed back from elections and parliament to the cabinet and assumes a high level of political culture in that cabinet including respect and trust for each other and a willingness to compromise for this system to work.

Let us return briefly to the two points raised above. The position that the PNCR has reached now was reached by many analysts over forty years ago. Given the voting patterns established in the 1957, the 1961 and the 1964 elections it was clear that the PNC could not win an election on its own. The rigged elections from 1968 to 1985 obfuscated this obvious fact.

Secondly, it has always been on the cards that a reconstituted PNC, or perhaps a PNC in alliance with other forces, could win a fair election. 1964 proved this as in the first election under proportional representation the PPP did not get an overall majority of the vote, as it had not done in 1957 and 1961. It is impossible to say what really happened in the rigged elections of 1968, 1973, 1980 and l985 but though one can be confident that the PPP would have continued to get the largest vote, it may not have obtained a majority. It did obtain a majority in 1992, 1997 and 2001 after fair elections had been restored but that is because it got a substantial part of the Amerindian vote and some of the small but not insignificant floating vote that still exists in Guyana.

In other words, there is still at least a theoretical possibility that the PNC could win a fair election if it could capture a large part of the Amerindian vote, now quite significant, and the bulk of the floating vote. This would require extensive long-term campaigning and a reconstruction of the party's political policies and strategy.

Those points having been made, the question that remains is what exactly is the policy of the PNC at this stage. It has participated in the process of constitutional reform which has led to some significant changes in the direction of more inclusive governance. It has submitted a proposal for executive power sharing. That proposal has not been accepted or even discussed so far. Will it take any further initiatives on this score, will Mr Corbin seek to raise it in the dialogue process? It might create some momentum, perhaps, if the party were to respond to what the PPP had said and to explore the possibility of opening some sort of dialogue on this matter. Simple demands for power sharing by senior party members will not do the trick. What is required at a minimum, as has been the case elsewhere, is a structured dialogue process concentrated on this issue alone (in other words, in addition to the existing dialogue process), and with the benefit of an experienced and dedicated facilitator with secretarial and other facilities, in an effort to iron out the difficult issues involved, some of which have been raised in the PNCR's proposal.


Shared governance

Posted December 10th. 2002

The People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) last week submitted to the Social Partners a proposal on shared governance. The party had formed a committee before its congress in August to flesh out the concept and the proposals of that committee were discussed at several sessions of the Central Executive Committee of the party. The idea of shared governance had been formally approved by party leader Desmond Hoyte at the August congress and the party has indicated that it intends to publicise the details of the proposal to obtain a feedback. It has accepted that the proposals in the document are not cast in stone.

The essence of the proposal is as follows: the Prime Minister, who will be the head of government and who will sit in parliament, will come from the party that gets the highest votes at the elections.

Ministerial portfolios will be allocated proportionally to those parties who get at least five per cent of the vote so if one party gets fifty-one per cent of the votes, another 43% and the rest less than five per cent each the first two will divide the ministerial portfolios between them.

This will be done by agreement if possible but if discussion fails to produce agreement the selection process will be achieved by alternate picks, the party with the largest vote having the first pick. There will be a non-executive president as head of state.

He will be appointed by a multi-party vote in parliament for a term of seven years which, to use the language of the document, "straddles the holding of national elections and reduces the pressure on the office-holder to pander to the parties in hopes of reappointment." The parties involved in the government will sign a Coalition Agreement that will include a policy platform based on the national development programme and ideas from party manifestoes, portfolio allocation and party responsibilities and the decision-making structure and procedures in the executive.

That agreement will be publicised so the public can monitor the process and assess the compliance of coalition partners with the spirit and provisions of the agreement. The primary object of the decision-making process will be to facilitate consensus and avoid surprises, such as significant unannounced unilateral action, by setting up rigid mechanisms for communication, consultation and dispute resolution within the executive itself.

Decision-making in the governing executive will 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. The Council of Ministers will be the highest executive decision-making body and will include all the ministers, parliamentary secretaries and perhaps advisers.

It will consider all the issues normally discussed by a cabinet. It will be chaired by the Prime Minister and will meet at stipulated times. A quorum will be two thirds of the members of each of the major parties. Decisions will be by consensus failing which the issue will be sent for resolution to the Standing Coalition Management Committee. That will comprise the leaders of the parties and perhaps also senior party members. That committee will be responsible for overall management of the coalition and will be the highest forum for dispute resolution. There will be subcommittees of the Council of Ministers which will be the main areas for consultation, coordination and negotiations among the parties.

Those subcommittees will include ministers, other members of parliament, civil service heads and advisers. Those subcommittees will function as informal decision-making forums to process issues to be formally dealt with by the Council of Ministers.

Proposed new legislation and other initiatives will be sent first to these subcommittees. There are procedures for dealing with what the document calls "unresolved issues" which are different according to whether that issue is identified by one party as "inimical to race relations" in the country or is identified as an issue of "party distinction". The former can only be passed in parliament by a majority of each party in the council. If all attempts at internal dispute resolution fail, the matter is sent to the President for a judgment. However, he or she must seek advice from the Ethnic Relations Commission which must hold a public hearing.

If the President in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Commission holds that the measure is harmful to race relations it must be amended and re-submitted to the ministerial working group. If not, it can be implemented and will be considered a collective decision of the council.

If it is a matter of party distinction, the appropriate parliamentary sectoral committee must discuss it at a public session before submitting recommendations to the parliament where it can be passed and "dissenting parties are no longer under any obligation of collective responsibility for that particular issue".

Presumably it will still be a valid law and this proposal needs some further thought and clarification. The proposal recognises that with shared governance parliament will function somewhat differently. It seems from the proposal that the small parties which win one or more seats in the parliament but have less than five per cent of the vote will not be part of the government. They can therefore function as an opposition.

To cater for the lack of a powerful opposition the document proposes that government bills, after their first reading, must be sent to the appropriate select committee for public hearings, with some exceptions.

There are also provisions for public petitions. In practice, it is clear that a strong responsibility for monitoring government actions and laws will fall on the media and other non-governmental organisations. There are other provisions designed to increase public accountability such as the publication of cabinet minutes (with exceptions) and the setting up of commissions by the President to enquire into government activities. In preparing this document, the committee consulted the practices of coalition governments in countries like Belgium and Ireland. It has come up with a proposal that will require close consultation with the other political parties to make it workable. Other opinions will be sought.

This is surely, however, a significant step forward. Obviously, there is a lot of bad blood between the two main parties. But, as the document notes, they were able to work meaningfully together in the process of constitutional reform.

What will be needed to make discussion of this proposal useful and viable is a considerable reorientation in attitudes and a lessening of the now standard hostile rhetoric in public political life. What may also be essential is that a structured process for discussion of the many detailed issues be set up with perhaps one or two experienced facilitators and secretarial help to prepare agendas, take minutes, record decisions and arrange timely follow ups. Changing modes of governance is a big undertaking. To have a real chance of succeeding all sides will have to make a real commitment of time and energy. Why don't the parties now in parliament decide to turn parliament into a constituent assembly for the purpose of discussing this proposal on shared governance?

This will have the advantage of making parliament functional again and will ensure that these discussions which will clearly involve some constitutional amendments are given maximum prominence in the highest forum in the land.


Reflections on inclusive governance

Posted September 3rd. 2002

The idea of more inclusive governance has come more to the forefront in the last fortnight since the leader of the People’s National Congress, Desmond Hoyte, said at its recent Congress that it was an idea whose time had come. That was a reversal of the party’s previous position, indeed the party had not taken on board ideas for shared governance that had been put forward during the recent process of constitutional reform. For the first time, therefore, one of the two main parties has put the idea of new forms of governance in the front of its official agenda. The executive committee of the party will presumably when it next meets, discuss in much more detail possible models for shared governance with a view to arriving at a clear picture of what model it wishes to put forward for consideration by the PPP/C and other parties if talks on this topic get going.


The response of the PPP to Mr Hoyte’s speech through various spokesmen has been varied. It has been argued that the reforms already agreed for new wide ranging parliamentary committees and for a committee to jointly manage the business of parliament and for a number of important new commissions like the Ethnic Relations Commission themselves constitute a major step in the direction of shared governance and that these should be implemented as soon as possible.


There is merit in this argument, though of course implementation has been long delayed for several reasons and this needs to be urgently addressed. They also note that the issue of shared governance was not raised during the long tenure of the PNC in government. Others have pointed out that the dialogue between the two leaders had led to some positive achievements and have called for the dialogue to be resumed. Mr Hoyte has refused to do this until all that was agreed previously has been implemented. But the ruling party has not so far made what might be termed a formal response to Mr Hoyte’s new opening.


Reports indicate that a committee of the PNC/R’s executive had done some research on forms of more inclusive governance and was scheduled to make a report to the recent congress. Time did not permit and that report will presumably be presented to the executive committee when it convenes. There are many issues to be considered but for the moment we highlight two which we believe to be of crucial importance.


In the first place, good faith is required and a willingness to play by the rules if any system of governance is to succeed. Let us take the example of Fiji. Under its present constitution, adopted in l997, the prime minister is required to appoint a cabinet that includes opposition members in proportion to their number in parliament. It will be recalled that in May 2000 businessman George Speight and some followers seized parliament and held prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry, the leader of a coalition government, and his ministers hostage for two months. The military stepped in and ended the crisis but did not restore Chaudhry to power. Elections were held in September 2000 and Laisenia Qarase, an indigenous Fijian, was elected prime minister. Under the constitution he should have appointed eight members of Mr Chaudhry’s Fiji Labour Party to his cabinet but he refused to do so.

The Labour Party filed legal proceedings and the court ordered that the opposition members be included in the cabinet. Qarase still refused and an appeal was filed which is to be heard this month. Clearly, Mr Qarase and his party had acted in bad faith by agreeing to a constitutional arrangement which they later disregarded.
Without good faith, the whole business of negotiating new forms of governance can become little more than opportunistic manoeuvring to gain power.


The other issue is the question of a minority and a majority. Shared governance does not ‘solve’ or do away with that problem. For example, if there is a power sharing cabinet decisions still have to be made after suitable deliberation. In some cases it may be possible to agree on what is to be done but in others this may not be possible and the majority will decide. If the minority will not accept the majority decision the power struggle will reassert itself in the joint cabinet. One can seek to overcome this problem by giving the minority veto rights on some issues but if that is overdone it can easily lead to gridlock, as has of course happened now with the appointment of parliamentary committees.


In other words, without some level of cooperation and a good faith acceptance of rules no system of governance will succeed. There have to be compromises in the national interest, if one party keeps moving the goalposts in its own interest there will be ongoing instability, whatever form of government is temporarily agreed on.
It may be that this is a watershed in the affairs of the nation and that experiments should be made. But the participants must come to the table after proper reflection and in good faith. They must seek practical solutions that can work.


Power sharing answer to racial insecurity in Guyana, Trinidad - Panday - Stabroek News June 11th. 2002

Trinidad and Tobago's opposition leader, Basdeo Panday believes power sharing is the solution to the ethnic problems being faced by Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Speaking with reporters yesterday at Le Meridien Pegasus, Panday said, however, that educating the people that their interest lay in working together was critical to the process. Panday is leader of the United National Congress (UNC), which, like the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) has 18 seats in the Trinidad National Assembly.

He observed that as long as there is voting along racial lines, the Westminster-style single vote constituency first-past-the-post electoral system, would generate among the group that loses the fear of domination by the group that wins the election. He said that the answer is a constitutional arrangement, which allows both sides to participate in the governance of the country.

To address the situation that obtains in his country, Panday said, he would like to see an electoral system introduced under which the President and Prime Minister are appointed respectively by the party with the largest number of votes and the one with the second largest number of votes. He stressed that the next elections would likely generate the same results as the last and only a reform of the constitution that allowed for power sharing could provide a solution to the racial insecurity.

However, in the absence of comprehensive reform, Panday stated that at a minimum he would like the constitution to be amended to allow the President to appoint the Prime Minister from the party which has the largest number of votes where the parties have the same number of seats.


Is power sharing viable? - Stabroek News Editorial, 28/02/02

For over a decade there has been a debate in the editorial and letter columns of this newspaper as to whether the Westminster model of democracy that Guyana inherited at independence in l966 whereby the winning party (or a coalition of parties) form the government and the other party or parties form the opposition is adequate or appropriate in a society in which ethnic voting patterns have been established since l957 (an executive presidency was imposed in the l980 constitution but the winner take all aspect of the Westminster model essentially remains in place).

Referring primarily to the work of the political scientist Arend Lijphart, suggestions have been made that we should experiment with consociationalism or executive power sharing in which there is a grand coalition of the main or all the political parties who obtain a certain minimum number of seats in an election. This, its proponents have argued, will overcome the ethnic tension and lead to more political stability.

Of course since the sixties a number of proposals were put forward for a coalition between the two main parties. Nothing ever came of them. Now, perhaps encouraged by the successful temporary example of executive power sharing in South Africa under the interim constitution and the experiment with power sharing in Northern Ireland under the Good Friday Agreement supporters of power sharing in Guyana have been urging for some time that this issue be placed on the political agenda. At least one proposal for power sharing was put before the Constitution Reform Commission by the Working People's Alliance but this was not supported by either of the two main parties. The issue has since been in a kind of limbo, though ardent advocates like Dr David Hinds continue to see it as the only viable solution and seek by their advocacy to get it back on the agenda.

The objections to power sharing are well known and are listed by Lijphart himself. One obvious danger is the possibility of gridlock if the parties forming the government cannot agree on one or more issues. The ultimate effect of that gridlock would depend on whether the minority had a right of negative veto on all or some issues (there are different models of power sharing) or whether the majority in the coalition could carry the day with their votes. Of course if there was disagreement too frequently that could lead to considerable friction.

Then there is the virtual absence of a formal political opposition in the case of a grand coalition between say the PPP and the PNC. This could put an enormous responsibility on civil society, in particular the media, to in effect perform the role of the traditional opposition or watchdog to monitor the laws and policies of the government. Backbenchers in the governing parties could be given the right to speak out in parliament against laws introduced by the government as a means of creating some institutional opposition in parliament though how effective or practical that would be can only be surmised.

Then there is the danger of developing a kind of elitist politics whereby the leaders in the two main parties decide everything at the highest levels in private consultations and the result is presented to parliament or the people as a fait accompli. Perhaps one can create a senate or second house with representatives of interests like the churches, business and the unions which would have powers of review and delay in an effort to increase the level of transparency and accountability so that government spokesman could be called upon in the senate to respond to criticism of legislation.

There are other possible difficulties in the power sharing model, all of which cannot be examined here. Suppose after a while the parties in government just cannot get along together and one wants to withdraw. Clearly they would have the right to do so (the National Party in South Africa did in fact withdraw from the coalition with the African National Congress) and there would then be a de facto reversion to the old power sharing model. The truth is that there has been no profound or detailed analysis so far in the local debate as to exactly how power sharing might work with reference to precedents like Switzerland and Belgium. The emotion propelling the debate is the perfectly valid revulsion against ethnic or tribal politics which is correctly seen as unpleasant, degrading and irrational. There can hardly be any real progress where people vote blindly for kith and kin without reference to policies and competence. Thus, critics like Dr Hinds reach out instinctively for something more dignified, more progressive and potentially more stable. It is, at the least, a noble dream.

For the debate to go further younger politicians on both sides of the divide who had once given the matter some thought should start expressing their views again. Real work has to be done too on the knotty constitutional and procedural issues involved, with specific reference to models that exist elsewhere. Mr Lijphart's work is a good starting point though several other academics have addressed the topic. Fundamental changes in a system of government cannot be lightly undertaken. One senses, for example, that the topic now creates little or no resonance at the popular level. This is no doubt partly because the debate has tended to be a little esoteric and has not been taken to the people by its advocates in any meaningful way. The efforts by the WPA over the years to bridge the racial divide have also, of course, been a painful failure.

The only other imaginative alternative to the status quo would be the attempt to reconstitute one of the two main parties on explicitly non-ethnic grounds. That would require a quality and strength of leadership not now in evidence.

The danger with the idea of power sharing is that it can become a woolly and utopian ideal unless it is spelt out more fully and unless the difficulties are openly faced and discussed. With that reservation only, given the often grim reality of our situation, it must surely remain a valid political option which interestingly enough Mr Panday has been pushing in the clearly unacceptable situation that has arisen in Trinidad.


Power-sharing in Trinidad? - Stabroek News Editorial, 14/12/01

"As long as elections and political activity... remain confined to racial and religious parameters, our democratic development will be stymied." No, this quotation does not pertain to Guyana; it refers to Trinidad and Tobago, and comes from Bukka Rennie writing in the Guardian newspaper last week. There were many other comments in similar vein which appeared in the Trinidadian press prior to the election of December 10, which looked as if they had been transposed directly from here.

And now following the most polarised election ever, the Trinidadian people have spoken, producing a result, as in Guyana, corresponding fairly closely to the ethnic divide. It is just that in the twin island for demographic reasons it has resulted in a gridlock, with both the United National Congress (UNC) and the People's National Movement (PNM) garnering 18 seats in Parliament each. There is not even the equivalent of a GAP/WPA, UF or ROAR seat to clutter the final result.

Constitutionally speaking, this is new terrain for our sister Caricom republic since neither party can command the majority necessary to form a government. It is now left to President ANR Robinson to make a decision. That decision may be a few days in coming and in the meantime UNC leader, Mr Basdeo Panday, has made a proposal for a solution.

"I consider it mandatory," said Mr Panday, "that both political parties should respect the expressed and collective will of the electorate. I shall therefore propose to the Leader of the People's National Movement that we make partisan agendas secondary to the national interest and that we work out an appropriate arrangement for sharing power in a government of national unity." Reactions in the press to this announcement were positive, varying from the ecstatic to the cautiously approving.

"Trinidad and Tobago breaking new ground and forging ahead of its Caribbean neighbours (the whole country alive with ideas, man)..." crowed Keith Smith in the Express. The leader column in that same newspaper was more careful, but it did describe the offer as a "historic opportunity."

However, it also spelt out the dangers if the agreement collapsed and served to "let loose even more divisive emotions in the society and, thereby, render the situation far worse than it was before." All these possible negatives notwithstanding, it concluded philosophically that one can't make omelettes without breaking eggs.

The Guardian said that no one wanted to return to the polls, especially when there was no prospect of a result any different from the one already obtained. It also referred to the fact that there was really no wide difference between the parties in terms of policy; what differences there were lay in the details and in the personalities.

By yesterday, however, public response had become more muted. For one thing, Mr Manning of the PNM had narrowed the negotiating space by insisting that a national unity government would have to be headed by a PNM prime minister - a stance, which one might have thought, was dooming the talks to failure before they even began. And for another, the climate of mistrust existing between the parties was now being accorded its due weight in the assessments. In contrast to the ebullient tone of Wednesday's Express editorial, for example, yesterday's leader was less than optimistic. It began by saying that citizens found it difficult to separate the power-sharing proposal from the man who had made it. "There are many who believe," it said, "that he [Mr Panday] is not to be trusted and the plan is, in fact, a ruse to gather total power to himself." His past, said the Express, was coming back to haunt him.

Well, all of this is very familiar to Guyanese, who know all about suspicion and prior conditions on negotiations. The Caribbean waits to see whether the political leadership of Trinidad and Tobago really is ahead of the Caribbean game as Mr Smith has suggested, or whether it is the Guyana model which is pointing the way.