I believe that at significant moments in history, leaders are called upon to convey great ideas to their people, to challenge them, to make them dream great dreams, and ultimately set them on a course far beyond their wildest imaginations.
Transformational leaders usually rise to that challenge because they believe that what the mind of man can dream and believe, he can surely achieve; where there is no vision the people perish. Speaking before the House of Commons during the Battle of France in 1940, Prime Minister of Britain Winston Churchill said; “ I say to this House as I have said to those who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”. In an address to the US Congress in May 1961 President John F Kennedy challenged his nation by saying; “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon, and returning him safely to Earth”.
Ronald Regan another American President famously challenged his Soviet rival, Mikhail Gorebachev on June 12th 1987, standing before the Brandenburg gate, Regan said; “Mr. President tear down this wall”. These are memorable moments that will forever define these leaders and their contribution to history.
On Friday with much pomp and ceremony, fanfare and military pageantry, His Excellency the President of Guyana Donald Ramotar addressed the opening of the 10th Parliament. It was a historic moment and like many people I was anticipating a speech to match the moment. I wanted my President to acknowledge that the recently concluded elections were a hard fought battle, but the people had spoken and it was now time to for all parties to come together and work for the good of the nation.
I wanted to hear him say to all sides that this was not the time to build walls, but a time instead to build bridges. That this was a time for us to see ourselves a Guyanese first, to rise above the narrow divisive confines of race, religion, class and politics and make our national motto true.
I wanted him to call on the members of the 10th parliament and all of society to work with him to put an end to scourge of racial politics, discrimination and corruption, that have stifled the growth of our nation from its creation. It would have been a great challenge for our people and our time.
Grabbing from the headlines of the recent floods, I wanted the President say to the nation that for us to continue focusing our development and our investments on the narrow strip of coastland was foolhardy and unsustainable, and that work should begin immediately on building a new capital city on higher ground.
But in the mean while he would seek to engage the best minds in the world to bring an end to coastal flooding. It might have even been nice for him to say to the honourable members that he would be happy to be invited, as an ex-President to the opening of the 15th parliament in the beautiful city of Mathews Ridge of Port Kaituma.
There was no vision in the speech, I left the gallery thinking that apart from the new mathematical reality, nothing had changed and there was no big thing to look forward to. This was a moment for the president to say to the people what he and his government’s agenda were going to be for the next five years.
I wanted to hear him channel Charles Dickens and say to the nation; In Guyana today for some it is the best of times, but for others it is the worst of times; Some are swimming in immense wealth; while many others are drowning in a sea of debt, with no hope of ever living a good life; I wanted him to promise that his policies and programmes would lift all boats.
I wanted to hear him say that his government working with the legislature, the private sector and the labour unions, was going to enact policies and programmes that would seek to bring immediate relief to the working man in Guyana.
That they would work to reinvigorate our manufacturing sector, create new well paying jobs by investing in green energy, small business initiatives and infrastructure development. I was expecting him to declare war on poverty and war on drugs, sending a message to the poor and indigent that he cared, and to the narcotic dealers of death and destruction that their days were over because there was a new Sherriff in town. With gold prices continuing to soar and the promise of oil (black gold) on our continental shelf, it would have been nice for the President to give us some broad strokes on the economic direction his government intended to take. Unfortunately, the speech did not measure up to the occasion, and another great opportunity was lost by this President.
Mr. Editor, in a country that is crying out for good leadership, on Friday our President failed to pick us up and show us the way. After the fanfare and the pageantry, this was his moment to step out of the dark shadows of the past and provide this nation with a blueprint for success; this was President Ramotar’s opportunity and his transformational moment. He blew it!
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