The current domestic situation, unless properly managed, has the potential to disrupt the lives of every Guyanese, every worker, our continental and Caribbean neighbours, and hinder our economic development at this crucial time when we’re on the threshold of our most dynamic economic path to development under the watchful eyes of the world.
It must be of concern to the diplomatic community whether they voice a public opinion or not. All eyes are watching us navigate ourselves out of this political challenge of an unprecedented confidence vote, amidst the absence of conventions, laws and guidelines, on how we continue to “function” day-to-day whilst upholding the fundamental rights of each citizen; ensuring peace and stability for all.
Last week ExxonMobil announced two more oil discoveries. These continual discoveries will increase interest as to Guyana’s potential, what benefits such could bring for citizens, how can we safeguard these and other benefits, along with the environment for the well-being of all.
In the presence of the citizens’ dreams and aspirations to proceed with development, there is Venezuela, with its internal turmoil and unrelenting claim to two-thirds of our territory, as politicians, on all sides, anxiously seek to vest their interest. Some, internal and external, have our collective interest at heart, and others see the present situation as opportune cover to plunder our resources for their self-interest. The latter we must avoid and the former we must seek relations, deepen ties and collaborate with.
A few days ago, the United Nations (UN), via the Resident Representative Makiko Tanaka, and the European Union (EU) felt compelled to voice their opinions on the current state of affairs, encouraging that we allow the Guyana Constitution to be our guide.
Outside of exception taken to the UN Representative’s slanted call for “the Executive, [to] demonstrate its integrity and respect of Guyana’s constitution and judiciary,” which does not augur well for creating balance and fair play, the general thrust of her presentation is encouraging. Guyanese are reminded the Opposition has equal a responsibility to respect the constitution and judicial processes, and to work with Government to hammer out a way out of this constitutional crisis.
The UN and EU’s statements are loaded with general advice and concerns for all Guyanese. Should we seize the entirety of what these organisations are communicating to us, it would be noted they are asking and expecting of us a higher degree of political maturity, a more inclusive, sensitive and compassionate government, serving the interest of all. Without getting into specifics of the Constitution, they are asking us to make meaningful Article 13 that speaks to the principal political objective of the State which mandates “inclusionary democracy.”
Tanaka reminded us that our “diversity and experience are assets,” and made the call for transparency; everyone’s voices and voted to be counted, which can be interpreted as ensuring a credible Voters’ List and a credible process. She noted the importance of citizen-involvement, encouraging us to have discussions among ourselves, along with the political parties, on what optimum cooperation should look like.
The role of faith-based organisations, which I call the Social Justice Movement, she noted, can be instrumental in fostering the right values and norms for societal change, playing a fundamental role to sustainable development “that leaves no one behind.”
The EU, in similar vein, demonstrated understanding of the challenges we faced, as it “calls on all concerned bodies and stakeholders to uphold the constitution.” Said statement made clear “that it [ EU] is carefully following developments connected to the motion of no-confidence” and called on all stakeholders to uphold the constitution, and for “respecting democratic procedures and the rule of law.”
It is further indicative in the EU’s statement that the body expects “procedures should be managed efficiently, with openness and transparency” and that even as it welcomes “expeditious handling of the related court cases so far…further legal process can be expedited, for the benefit of Guyana.”
This statement represents the understanding and sobriety that we should expect of our international community and which by extension we expect of our politicians, civic society, and those who seek to influence public opinion on this matter. It reflects what our own poet, Martin Carter said, “all are involved,” for together we can find solutions or further divide this nation.
Thus, it remains of concern that neither the Opposition nor Government has to date demonstrated interest in working together to establish legislation, guidelines, written convention to address Article 106(6) and (7) to determine how Government will continue to “function” after successful passage of a confidence vote.
Acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George-Wiltshire in her January 31st, 2019 ruling has, while upholding 106(6), equally upheld 106(7), that allows government continuity in office until elections. The ruling noted that “even though Cabinet [should have] resigned, the President and the ministers remain ministers to perform their duties and functions of office.”
A major challenge facing the nation, in the presence of the CJ’s ruling, is the absence of common understanding that would guide Guyana on the way forward, now and in the future.
At this juncture, Government has filed an appeal to the ruling, as the Opposition and supporters of the Government have initiated protest action in front of GECOM. This follows after GECOM has indicated that the earliest elections can be held is July.
Two days last week, bomb scares at the University of Guyana (Turkeyen campus) disrupted classes, filled with a number of young people, and forced its closure for the remainder of the week. These scares may be politically unrelated, but should serve to tighten awareness that there are those amongst us who may seek to exacerbate tensions and create conditions to take advantage of, in whatever quest they have on their agenda.
Politicians, on both sides, have to be conscious and responsible for what they say and do, knowing fully their influences can ignite or soothe. They must realise that this country cannot be effectively and efficiently managed without responsible leadership, inclusion and good governance. The back and forth and talking past each other is counterproductive, and it is time to meet and talk with each other as to how we proceed as a united nation. The President and Opposition Leader, the constitutional two premier leaders, are paid by the people, and must reach out and work together in the interest of the people.
We as a people cannot continue along this pathway serving partisan interest yet expecting peace, stability, sustainable development and national unity. We must live our motto of “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.” As allies of Guyana, the EU and UN are nudging us in this direction. Their founding principles and established tenets reflect the comity we seek for ourselves and with our neighbours around the world.
For the trade union, both organisations represent the values upon which the movement was founded – the workers’ fight for respect and dignity, a seat at the decision-making/negotiation table, one-man-one-vote and internal self-government. It bodes well for this society, in the here and now, to heed and act on their wise counsel.
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