Instead of examining the merit in the call to reconvene the National Assembly – the constitutional forum established to protect our national interest – partisans have supported its undermining.
Some among them are today expressing concern about the absence of local content legislation to protect Guyanese’s interest – and participation – in the oil and gas sector, as foreigners flock to our shores and our Caribbean sisters and brothers capitalise on the benefits within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
From 12th July when the Caribbean Court of Justice issued its Judgement on the no-confidence motion to now, much time has been wasted re-litigating and distorting the ruling. This nation, its institutions of government and citizens, are being held hostage to the ransom note of ‘election now or nothing moves.’
We are in this state of inaction, primarily because of a reckless and self-serving leader who has had some success misguiding forces amongst us. As we are going through this period where they have deliberately set out to sow the wind, it is hoped that ultimately we do not fall victim of their whirlwind.
Those offended and crying foul that our Caribbean counterparts are making the most of integration should dispassionately examine how they have contributed to placing us in a position for others to benefit, as we seemingly may be left with little or nothing. Ours was the opportunity since the announcement of oil – an economic issue of widespread proportion – to rally together as one and make sure our elected leaders safeguard the interest of the collective. The harsh reality now is that any local content legislation will not be likely until about August 2020. This time factors in the election and parliamentary processes.
Exxon is said to begin production in December. This would be eight months before our local content interest is legislated and after having wasted one year (July 2019-August 2020) to get our house in order. The intervening period has left the field open for others to exploit opportunities. Those with the expertise and resources will do so. Even as some can cry foul, let it not be forgotten who have placed us in this position. We have weakened ourselves by fighting each other, taking our eyes off the prize, and now external interests are moving in for the proverbial kill.
Seeking to make scapegoats of others would not absolve responsibility for aiding an environment for outsiders to flourish. The threat to leave CARICOM or questioning whether CARICOM is still relevant was not accompanied by careful thought. Guyana has more to lose as the only English-speaking country nestled in South America, and with an existing border controversy, not to have allies in close proximity.
CARICOM states share with us a common bond in history, culture, political and economic determination. Dispassionate introspection will advise that Guyana has not delivered moral leadership to the region, since during the Bharrat Jagdeo administration. When there existed conflict(s) with another member-state, the option to resolve same through diplomacy and taking the moral high ground, was never sought or claimed. Reservation still lingers.
For instance, recall is being made of a Barbados situation under the David Thompson government, when the country was seeking to institute an immigration policy, enforce its immigration laws and the CSME. When non-nationals were called upon to regularise their status or face deportation, the Jagdeo administration and others accused the Bajan government of racial discrimination. This accusation was premised on a gut feeling that East Indians would have been mostly affected by the rules. My call for pursuing the respect for Barbados’ right to self-determination and employing the channels within CARICOM to secure resolution was rebuked, and I was labelled a racist.
Simultaneously, I recall the Forbes Burnham administration’s justification for buying soap from Dominica at a higher price when it could have been sourced cheaper from Germany. Burnham was investing in the economic survival of the CARICOM peoples as a single grouping, and making a point of moral leadership to its founding principles, facts he relied on in ensuring Guyana’s self-interest and the well-being of Guyanese.
Internally we have been rent asunder. There continues to be little regard for institutions and systems intended to shield us and advance our interest. In the silly season, a presidential candidate claims as an employer he knows what is best for the workers in the attempt to justify the removal of their union.
In an environment where basic rights and freedoms of the individual are disrespected, where any government could feel it can castigate another government for wanting to protect its citizens as they trample on the rights of theirs, this type of leadership no self-respecting people deserve. For it is a leadership that subscribes to the notion that there exists no rule in the game, or the rule will be broken when it does not conform to a given agenda.
Foreign companies such as BCGI/RUSAL, Troy Resources, etc., are looking on and taking advantage of the dysfunctionalism. They think they have free rein to trample workers’ rights and violate our laws. In the meantime, citizens of CARICOM member states are making hay as the sun shines. It is those local businesses and their umbrella organisations who see self-interest tied to partisan political interest, not national interest, that may find their only means of survival won’t be as first class citizens in the land of their birth, but to hitching their wagon to expatriates and becoming subservient in the scheme of things.
Those who now blame government for doing nothing to secure local interest must ask themselves what they have done to bring Government and Opposition together to ensure the interest of the collective. Where were their voices when others had (and still have) been calling for Parliament to function? It is Parliament, the nation’s sole lawmaking institution and its highest decision-making forum, that is so empowered to deliberate and realise legislation.
Not since slavery would this nation see such economic movement. Whereas most of our forebears came as slaves and indentured servants, working and living under subhuman conditions, Guyanese have all reason to be concerned we could become enslaved/indentured in our land. There is reason to conclude that for some to survive, they will have to put their pride and dignity under their feet.
By nature I am an optimistic, but it is not lost on me that coming through this period successfully would require of us being prepared to do what is right for Guyana and all Guyanese.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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