The pursuit of good governance is challenging, but not undoable, given that it requires managing people and their resources.
In a heterogeneous society individuals and groups have their inherent purposes, needs and wants which can be properly attended to, consistent with established guidelines that make all feel their valued members of the society. To bring about this, it requires just and enforceable laws that would ensure effective and efficient functioning of institutions designed to protect the people and manage their business.
There will always be the tendency for leaders and the well-connected to think that there is the God-given right to determine for the masses, irrespective of laws code of ethics, conventions and charters that guide conduct in public office.
The principal challenge to good governance facing us over a number of years is not the absence of ideas as to the direction the nation ought to travel. It is the reluctance to adhere to the representative nature of our system of governance, respect for the Rule of Law, and the universal principle that all are equal and must be so treated.
It’s instructive that when in the Opposition, political party or groups would demand of the Government the practice of good governance, but when given the reins to implement same, give the impression that it comes with unwillingness if the people do not insist they hold to commitments and statements made when in the Opposition. Because of the fundamental flaw or contempt for the citizenry, it becomes the role of the people to vigilant, agitate and advocate.
The charges brought against Winston Brassington and Ashni Singh, and the sedition clause in the Cybercrime Bill and the non-appointment of the two top positions in the Judiciary, currently making the rounds in the news, are bringing forcibly home, the importance of the people.
There was a letter in last Friday’s Stabroek News newspapers by former president Donald Ramotar continuing the advancement of a perception that Brassington and Singh’s charges are politically motivated. In pursuing this course, the attempt was made to draw comparisons between lands of similar nature sold by the Desmond Hoyte Government. Absent from the attempted analysis of that government’s action vis-à-vis the PPP/C government’s sale, is that of property and dollar values at the time.
When Hoyte demitted office it was US$1 to about G$120.00. Since 1992, the development that has taken place in the area where the contentious land issue resides and the price at which it was sold, these factors cannot be ignored.
Society is witnessing the efforts to ignore addressing the land issue in context with the role and conduct of public officers – elected and appointed – and their impact on the quality of governance being delivered in the society. So long as there are questions about the manner in which the people’s business is being conducted, the state institutions that have responsibility for checks and balances must be called upon to do their work.
The laws in this country are not for those whom some may want to call ‘plebs’, they are for everyone, and more so to protect the vulnerable and the resources of the people. When high-profile operatives are coming to the public in defence of persons who are asked to account for their stewardship, they convey the impression that there is something to hide. What they are not demanding is a fair and just process for those who are accused, to have their day in court; let the evidence flow, those found guilty face the consequences, and those not be exonerated.
While there is a view that the law can be unjustly used against the accused, we cannot start from the standpoint of saying we have no confidence in the judiciary. There are various strata in our judicial system, all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice that has so far proven to be discerning, and the court must be allowed to do its work – i.e. adjudicate.
The pursuit of good governance necessitates eschewing double standard. The claim being made by some in the opposition, that the matter of sedition during their stewardship is a case of looking back, as against the present outcries of the sedition clause in the Cybercrime Bill which they have joined, must not be countenanced. Each administration, during and after its stewardship, must be held to account and by the same standard.
Seeking to do otherwise creates a system where our race-political environment presents one group as bad and the other good, or efforts are made to sanitize the bad and make it acceptable. Wrong is wrong and right is right, and it must matter not from whence it comes or who is affected.
Equally, we must not accept from the governing side that opportunities were presented when the Bill was in Committee to make recommendations. Where elected leaders are representatives of the people, the people can at any time express dissent to an issue and it must be addressed, be it law, bill, programme or policy. Our politicians must not be allowed to forget this.
The many signals coming from government representatives on this matter not only show an absence of coordination, but determined efforts by some not to regard the seriousness of this matter or the voice of the people. Ministers Raphael Trotman and Basil Williams’ positions are more in keeping with the mood of the people and the pursuit of good governance requires noting it.
On addressing the appointments in the judiciary, society is owed a debt of gratitude for its continuous effort to extract information from the government and opposition. In practicing good governance, it would be expected that information would have been provided to the people, bringing them along as the nation seeks to make a very crucial decision based on a consensual position.
It may be necessary at the juncture when the Leader of the Opposition and President meet “soon” on the judicial appointment, for them not to confine themselves to constitutional issues, but also create a framework where other issues of national import are placed on the table for discussion, with a view of building trust in a relationship that appears to be very antagonistic.
Good governance is not driven by how one feels about an individual, but by respect for the offices being held, and the role and function of the office holder. Equally, good governance relies on all three branches – Executive, Legislature and Judicature – being allowed to carry out its task within the existing legal framework, not losing focus of the diverse environment where mistrust simmers and people more importantly yearn for an economic and sustainable life. People want to live in peace and harmony, and it is time to take the continuous, unproductive rancour out of this environment.
Citizens have an important role to play in this regard, and we must not let up on our vigilance.
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