As the nation continues to navigate the No-Confidence Motion and its likely consequences, one way or the other, Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland, last Thursday in the National Assembly, advised that he will not reverse his decision. This means the germane issue as to whether the vote demonstrated the House has no confidence in the Government still exists.
The Government has already signalled that the Court will be asked to adjudicate on this issue. Acknowledgement of this fact does not ignore the debates as to whether the court should be asked to intervene or if it is better to accept the vote as is and proceed to election.
The Judiciary is the custodian of our laws. Where differences of opinion and doubt exist on interpretation and application of the law, the best avenue to have these resolved is in the court. Rulings of the court create opportunities to strengthen and deepen democracy through enforcement, new laws or amendments.
Ours is a nation built on the Rule of Law and opportunities like this should be embraced however conflicting the views, because it aids the process of the society’s growth and development.
Even as the nation awaits the decision of the Court, it cannot be ignored the underlying anxiety amongst the people as to what the future holds for them. This anxiety has to do with which group(s) would likely hold offices (Executive and Legislative) and is or are likely to deprive or ensure they too are beneficiaries of the nation’s patrimony.
The concern is real and does not discriminate. As such, it cannot be ignored.
Addressing this anxiety requires putting systems in place to assure every group, individual and legitimate institution, that there is a place for them as citizens of this nation, and they are entitled to their fair share of its patrimony.
There must be no sugarcoating of the fact that there exists perception and acts in our history where some have felt left out, were excluded or not allowed equal opportunity. This we must address as a matter of urgency. The political space when it comes to the management and decision-making processes of the state can no longer be solely confined to the political parties in government, be they Opposition or Executive.
The table of governing has to be broadened and lengthened to include other stakeholders. It is the steadfast belief that though there is the tendency to bemoan that ours is a winner-take-all system, it allows for inclusion, not exclusion. However, what is needed is the will to transform the society through political actions and citizens’ agitation.
As we are preparing to go into another election, both of the major political groupings, the PPP/C and APNU+AFC, are talking about bringing others within their fold, constitutional reform, job opportunities, and so forth.
Promises like these have become common features in the political hustings, only to be discarded, in whole or part, after having gained the confidence of the people. But it is time we move beyond the accepting of promises of what ought to be, to demanding that they be made possible now.
Such demand and expectation are not unpatriotic, partisan or unrealistic. In fact, they represent the highest form of patriotism and citizenship, for ours is the responsibility to mould our destiny, none other.
Last week we learnt of the content of a leaked email sent by Raphael Trotman, Leader of the AFC, to the party’s membership. That email contained, among other things, his view that it is time for transformative politics. For instance, he is reportedly quoted as saying, “I believe that the budget is the opportunity for us to make some gains, and in the circumstances, propose that we use our presence at Cabinet, and outside of it, to advance a new agenda. I propose further that we engage the WPA (Working People’s Alliance) and even a few civil society groups as needed” (KN, 3rd January 2019: ‘Trotman’s e-mail shows AFC contemplated blackmailing the government’).
There is no desire to get into the minutiae of the email and health of the partnership, save to say the quoted reference is insightful, and presents an opportunity to open the door to meaningful engagement with civil society, which is what the Guyana Constitution at Article 13, the Principal Political Objective of the State, requires of us as Guyanese.
Similar role for the trade union’s participation is expressed in Article 149C. The National Budget, which sets out the country’s yearly Economic Plan and the distribution of resources, has over the years been solely the activity and decision-making of the Executive, regardless of alternative opinion shared.
An inclusionary approach in determining distribution of resources will respect the input of other stakeholders in shaping a National Development Strategy, funding to make it possible, and proper accountability to ensure its integrity.
The coming oil and gas sector and its likely impact on the economy makes attention to this issue more pressing. Here, the public can play meaningful role in the management and decision-making processes of the state, given the Budget impacts the well-being of every citizen, group and institution.
Talks and promises of constitutional reform should impact areas such as the Budget. Amendment could be made for the Budget to be passed by at least two-thirds of all the Members in the Assembly. This would cause the elected representatives to recognise and appreciate the necessity for working together, in the interest of the common good, to pass a budget. This would necessitate some give-and-take.
The ten Regional Democratic Councils, for instance, are not controlled primarily by the party or group that forms the Executive. So, if Members of the House, bolstered by the input of stakeholders in society, have to sit and negotiate the disbursement of funding to each region, they will seek to ensure there is some measure of equity, because they will be held to account by the people within the respective regions for failing to deliver.
As this nation seeks to hold true to our motto “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”, a disservice is being done to the citizenry, if it is accepted that this could be attainable without ensuring due protection for the fundamental rights and freedoms of every individual.
As a trade unionist it is very disturbing to bear witness to or hear stories of these fundamentals being trampled on with impunity daily. Constitutional and legal bodies such as the Human Rights Commission and the Trades Union Recognition Board are yet to be established.
The non-establishment of the stated institutions constitute the denial of the rights and freedoms of every individual. The ones most likely to be adversely affected are the working class, the ordinary man and woman, the masses. But it should be said their dispossession threatens those favourably protected, for discrimination anywhere threatens equality everywhere. In such society, repression not only exists, the situation also allows for violence, in various forms, to be perpetuated on the vulnerable, and the seeking of resources through vigilance justice.
The foundation of every society is its people, and it matters much how they are being treated. No society can reach the stage of equity in development when there is not equality in treatment for all its citizens. We must move now, even as we await the Court’s decision and an election, to fix the anomalies in the system by the establishment, amendment and enforcement of laws.
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