Since the ascension of Mr. Donald Ramotar as the president of Guyana, there have been changes. But it is also clear that in a number of areas, these changes have not in the eyes of many members gone far enough.
There have been more sincere engagements between the President and the main opposition parties. Political cooperation is, however, new territory for both APNU and the ruling party. Or to put it another way, it is uncharted waters.
Indeed it is because historically political cooperation has been limited between the two main political forces in the country. Third forces have equally shown an unwillingness to be good officers in bringing the two main forces together. There is therefore no culture of any sustained political engagements between the two main political parties outside of the National Assembly.
One of the dangers of the present impasse in the National Assembly is that it plays to a particular gallery within our society. That gallery is occupied by extremists who would like to see constant political confrontation; they want to exact revenge for perceived wrongs; they want to indulge in destructive politics. They wish to shame, defame and denigrate, rather than create a new political culture marked by cooperation.
The results of the elections have confirmed that there is political gridlock in Guyana, regardless of who holds the majority in the National Assembly or how large is that majority. The voting is polarized and this is the source of the political gridlock.
So if the PPP had won a majority, the situation would still have been one in which the society would have been polarized. This is an extremely troubling development and one that suggests that there is a need at the political level for a new dispensation.
There has been a lot of talk about the parliament having a new dispensation. Well this is limited purely to the fact that the PPP/C failed to gain a majority. In reality, what we have in Guyana is the same old polarized political outcomes, but if the one-seat majority that the combined opposition enjoys would allow for a change in the way the parties relate to each other, then we can speak about a new dispensation outside of parliament.
And despite the problems, there has been a willingness on both sides to meet and talk civilly. The leaders of APNU, the PPP/C and the AFC, have all sat down and talked. They did this before the election results were declared and they have done this after the new government has been sworn in. They need to continue to do this and it is for the government to continue to engage the opposition and find a mechanism to meet with them to chart the future of Guyana.
The supporters of the respective parties did not vote for a minority government. The supporters of the PPP/C wanted the PPP/C to win the elections. The supporters of APNU wanted APNU to win, and the same goes for the supporters of the AFC. It is the combined result of the elections that the ruling party does not have a majority in the National Assembly.
There are forces in all three camps who do not wish to see political cooperation. In the opposition camp, there are elements who relieve their disappointment in not winning the election by finding pleasure in seeking to humiliate the government and trying to go after certain public officials.
There are equally forces within the government who feel that the PPP/C won the election and can win a snap poll and therefore there is no need to give any quarter to the opposition.
These forces, however, do not represent all the people of Guyana. Most of the people of Guyana, despite their personal preferences, would love nothing more than to see the leaders of the parties sitting down and talking, and standing up and working together.
The vast majority of the people of this country are battle-fatigued. They cannot stand this constant fight that is taking place between the government and the opposition. They feel, with some justification, that this is holding back the country and wrecking their lives.
They are tired of the fighting between the parties and they would love to see them sit down at least for a couple of years and work together.
There are persons who are leaving Guyana because they are fed up with the political conflict between the two main parties. They want the country to breathe easier.
And there has been a promising start to the new government. Things are not perfect. There have been some setbacks but the process should continue since the people want change, and the greatest change they want is to see the leaders talking together and then working together.
This is the change that the people want, and while some of this has been taking place, enough movement has not been made because the opposition now seems content to try to grab as much power and control in the National Assembly rather than set the basis within that body for improved relations with the ruling party. The opposition is acting in bad faith and that is souring relations between the parties.
There is a need for change and that change has to begin with the parties becoming more civil to each other. The leaders of all of the parliamentary parties are capable and have already demonstrated that they can be civil. It is the underlings who can become the problem and who can threaten the much desired new dispensation that is in the making.
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