An idea has been put in the public domain about the launching of a third party to represent the interests of the Amerindian community. This pronouncement has gained momentum and appears to have support from leading social and political commentators. Over the years both the People’s National Congress (PNC) and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) have been dubbed racial organisations, with the former attracting support primarily from the African community and the latter from the East Indian community.
Accusations against these parties have gone to the extent where some of the same commentators, who today are encouraging the establishment of an Amerindian party, are on record calling for the defanging of the PPP and PNC because of their alleged race-based nature. If the PPP and PNC have been condemned for being race-based parties, how does it become commendable today to encourage the establishment of a party to represent the interest of a single race?
If tomorrow, the douglas decided they are going to form a political party, and other racial groups decided likewise – Guyana has a least six races – will this solve the problem of exclusion, being disrespected and treated with indignity by groups or individuals?
The answer is a resounding no. Only respect for and enforcement of constitution, laws, universal declarations, international conventions and charters can bring about man’s innate desire to be treated with respect and dignity.
The absence of critical thinking being brought to issues of import remains disturbing. Had those expressing support for the formation of a party to represent the Amerindian community taken the time to examine what the proposer, Lenox Shuman, Vice President of the National Toshaos Council, has given for his reasons, they would recognise he is speaking about a community feeling disrespected and excluded in the management of their affairs by successive governments.
It is not unreasonable to expect that given the talks about the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)’s ruling on the Guyana Constitution with regard to the seeking of a third term for Bharrat Jagdeo, this society would, beyond jubilation on one hand and disappointment on the other, see the importance of examining this instrument and what it means for our wellbeing. This ruling must serve as eye-opener as to pervasive idle talks operating around us in how we treat with the affairs of state, the business of governance, and the well-being of citizens.
Many are still wedded to ignoring the Constitution, condemning it, calling for reform or total scrapping – though how this can be done without enforcing it has not yet been made clear or known – missing what this seminal ruling means for us moving to create and ensure an environment of good governance.
The CCJ’s ruling has not only debunked the talk that the Constitution was created to make Forbes Burnham rule for life by supporting Article 90 which allows for the people, through their elected representatives in the National Assembly, to determine the term limit of the President; or that the ruling is about Jagdeo and not the Rule of Law. The ruling also points out that the contentious article was found in many States that practice liberal democracy.
The decision of these erstwhile gentlemen on the Bench strengthens the case for the need for public awareness and education on this document and we must not cease the moment. This country cries out for serious conversations on good governance, people’s rights and freedoms.
The disrespect the Amerindian community is feeling is not singular. Guyanese, from across the racial divide, can speak to this problem. Article 13 in the Constitution, which speaks to inclusionary democracy and the role of individuals and groups in the management and decision-making processes of the State on matters that affect their wellbeing, awaits attention. Inclusion requires acknowledgement of equality and dignity for all. And when you start from this point you would respect people’s role in the process.
Had this article, which is a declaration, been given its true place and prominence in society there would have been legislation in place. Almost two decades since it was assented to by then president Jagdeo, I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness for it to be given its deserving respect through laws, programmes and policies. This article is deemed the “Principal Political Objective of the State” and it is not by accident, for it aims to bring about peace and harmony among the society’s diverse groups.
All those who have voted in support of Article 13, remained in the National Assembly and have not pushed for its enforcement, must hear from us for abrogating their responsibility to us, that saw its insertion after prolonged protests in the post-1997 General and Regional Elections which lead to a nationwide constitutional reform process. If there cannot be enforcement of what we have, how can any future reform achieve this? It’s my view the people are deliberately being kept in ignorance on the Constitution because in the absence of knowing what’s ensconced they become easy to be led and violated.
An ethnic party as a third party will not solve the disrespect meted to the masses by the elected and connected, nor will it bring about good governance. Shuman points to the symptoms, which are the result of treating sacred instruments with contempt.
What is needed is knowledge on how this society is designed to work, the rights, roles, and welfare of every group/individual in the system, and insistent demand that elected leaders act accordingly. We have to start from the foundation, i.e. the Constitution, and when we collectively make our demands consistent with it, it makes it harder to be marginalised, disrespected, and discriminated against.
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