If we were to be guided by the sentiments expressed by President David Granger and Opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo at their meeting on Wednesday to discuss the President’s nominees for the positions of Chancellor and Chief Justice, it is possible to believe that 2018 will turn out to be a good year for Guyana.
The President and the Opposition leader greeted each other with smiles. It was a warm and cordial meeting. The President acquiesced to Mr. Jagdeo’s request for a month to conduct due diligence on the nominees and they agreed to meet again on February 7 when Mr. Jagdeo will inform him of his decision.
While the President is subject to the Constitution, he still holds substantial powers which have the potential to affect our lives. He appoints the cabinet in which its members can collectively and individually have a decisive impact on the government’s legislative agenda in the passing of laws.
Additionally, the President has a direct role appointing people to certain watchdog bodies such as the Integrity Commission. These watchdog bodies could have an impact on the public’s ability to have faith in the systems of governance.
Based on the Constitution, the President is obligated to consult with the opposition leader on a number of issues including the appointments of a Chancellor and the Chief Justice of the Judiciary.
Therefore, the issuing of an invitation to the opposition leader to discuss his judicial appointments and to accept the request of the opposition leader is a good overture. This is particularly so given the ramifications of the unilateral appointment by the President of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) a few months ago.
Both the Government and the Opposition have much to lose if there is no consensus on the judicial nominees, especially if the eventual post-holders turn out to perform poorly.
The issuing of an invitation is all the more timely given the recent legislative wrangling, misconduct and raucous in Parliament which led to police intervention and the suspension of a member of the opposition. Both sides of the House need to demonstrate their capacity to work in a non-partisan way for the sake of the nation in the New Year.
In recent times, the government and the opposition have not been able to reach consensus on senior public appointments and on other issues. More often than not, the ruling party has had one nominee and the opposition another, as was the case with the appointment of the GECOM Chairman. That needs to change.
The issuing of an invitation by the President to the opposition leader may not itself translate into an agreement, but it is important for both sides to air their views and listen to one another. More of this is needed in 2018 if we are to make progress towards uniting the country.
Let’s face it, Guyana is a divided nation and many of us are unaware of the problems caused by such division and the lack of solutions to most of them. The truth is Guyana continues to face major challenges due to the deep-rooted division and partisan politics that have plagued the country since independence.
The people are comforted by the good overture of the President to meet with the leader of the opposition.
They believe that the quest for unity and our journey to end the era of racial and sectarian voting can be overcome in 2018.
Whatever the outcome, only good can come from the latest gesture by the President and the leader of the opposition. It sets a precedent for our democracy in terms of decision-making and power-sharing in 2018. It is good news.
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