There were quite a few persons wearing black on Friday, the Day of Appreciation for President Jagdeo, but they were in the main attending funerals. There were not many homes draped with black flags and hardly any vehicles displayed their objections to the hosing of this day of appreciation.
As such it can be concluded that the attempt by the Alliance for Change to protest the hosting of a ceremony of appreciation for President Jagdeo flopped. Not many persons heeded the class of the AFC while the National Stadium at Providence was filled to capacity, a telling rejection of those who wanted to protest the day of appreciation.
The AFC was within its right to oppose the day of appreciation. The members saw this as a political sideshow and they were concerned about the use of state resources. For political reasons, the AFC may have felt impelled to criticize the president and it was certainly within its right also to believe that the president should not be honoured.
Every country ought to honour those who have served, and therefore even if state resources were used (the government has denied that any state resources were employed) there is nothing wrong with a state or government honouring an outgoing leader.
Tactically, however, the AFC should not have adopted a course of action that was bound to fail. The protest by the AFC ended up backfiring against that party, and therefore it has been left humiliated and humbled.
The stadium was filled to capacity and while the argument can be made that many persons were bused into the event, the fact remains that these persons were not forced into attending. They were not told that they would lose their jobs or they were not promised fancy things to attend. They all attended out of their own free will and therefore the numbers speak for themselves.
A second reason why the AFC should have more carefully considered its position on the appreciation day, concerns the sort of political culture to which the party claims to be committed. The party has always advocated the need for greater civility and respect in local politics, and while this does not preclude criticisms of the existing leadership of the country, certainly protesting a group of citizens honouring the President goes against the grain of that new respectful political culture that the party has been fostering.
The supporters of the President have every right to honour their president. They have held a ceremony for him and that right should be respected.
There will come a time when the government and the state will have to honour President Jagdeo, and that right too must be respected. Whatever his faults and shortcomings, he is the President of Guyana, and was democratically elected to that position by a majority of the Guyanese people. He has served the people and the country must honour those who have served in such high public office.
The fact that the appreciation was held in an election year is not the organizers or the president’s fault. The constitution prohibits the president from a third term and therefore he has to demit office in an election year. Those who held the ceremony chose to do so before nomination day and therefore shield themselves from criticism that the event was aimed at promoting the fortunes of the ruling party.
Whichever party gets into power, including the AFC, it is hoped that when the times come that they too will honour their own president, because this is something we should do.
We should learn to show greater appreciation, including within domestic politics. This is the sort of political culture we need to encourage, that regardless of which party a leader comes from, if that person does something good, say something worthwhile or wishes someone well, that should be appreciated rather than resorting to a mudslinging campaign.
In this regard, though, the government needs to lead the way, because it is often the case that the government is the one who tries to put down others. As such, the government should also set a good example, but this should not preclude someone else from doing the same.
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