Inclusionary government is mandated by the Guyana Constitution not dependent on partisan trust. Those who seek to make this a partisan issue are clearly setting out to project themselves above the constitution with the authority to determine the rights of elected officials to participate in the various levels of decision-making/inclusion which the constitution provides for. How dare they? This is not a factor to be determined by any individual or any group. The fact is none should seek to or can deny the other the right to inclusion.
The way some feel about trusting others is similarly felt by others who don’t trust them. They must not be allowed to hold this nation hostage. Our concerns in this nation shouldn’t be about who liking who but about the Rule of Law. The right to preference as to your friend or against who you like or don’t like is respected. However, when elected to public office to serve Guyana that right cannot be upheld as it relates to governance and distribution of the nation’s resources. As a nation we have to learn to trust each other and if we don’t trust each other we must learn to trust the laws that are there to give direction as to how they govern. For it is this to which we must hold them accountable.
Whereas some are of the view that President David Granger cannot be trusted to realise inclusionary democracy another section of society holds similar viewpoint that a president Irfaan Ali or the PPP under Bharrat Jagdeo’s leadership cannot be trusted to do so either. The argument is in the first three years, the Coalition Government headed by David Granger and Moses Nagamootoo held Local Government Elections (LGE) twice (2016 and 2018), satisfying the constitution requirement for de-centralised power from the Executive right down to the grassroots, i.e. the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs).
That record is unmatched by the PPP who for 21 years has failed to hold LGE and thus ensure the distribution of power among the people as provided for in the constitution. It is easy to make statements about who can be trusted and cannot. The evidence however rests in actual performance. There is a track record available for all those who seek truth and better understanding. It is the role of citizens of this country to hold all politicians accountable.
Whereas the Coalition has five years, two of which were mired in disruption of smooth functioning of governance, the Opposition had 23 years to demonstrate an inclusionary posture. The fact remains in 2001 then President Jagdeo assented to Article 13 (inclusionary democracy). Clearly, the PPP/C government had 14-plus years to give meaning to this article. They failed to do so hence their call today about the coalition not getting it done in this first term is sanctimonious hypocrisy on their part.
As per Article 13, “The principal objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.”
With this addition of our law, to the extent where same speak definitively to inclusionary democracy, it is not a choice of any government to exercise or not exercise. It is a constitutional mandate that the electorate must hold whichever party/group is in power accountable to. Anyone speaking now to inclusionary democracy as something to be used as a weapon and means of coercion of the other is demonstrating here that they have no intention towards good governance. Clearly, they don’t understand what their constitutional role is and what are the rights of “others” in society.
Both parties promised a more inclusive government in their manifestos. Whereas the Opposition had 23 years and delivered once (1994) on LGE, the coalition in its first term delivered two but fell short in similar manner as its predecessor in not devolving more financial autonomy. The NDCs are up and running with the PPP in control of significant amount in all regions. The same can be said of the Regional Democratic Council where the Opposition controls six. There is no question that political power is decentralised, meaning it is shared.
The nation is yet to see greater financial autonomy at all levels of distribution. Articles 75 and 76 of the Constitution speak to this but we have seen the failure on the part of the Executive and Legislature to enact the necessary legislation that parties only remember when they are in opposition. Though the coalition showed more promise of inclusion from the get-go it could always be argued they could have done more. In fact, the coalition has not had enough sittings and fallen short in making full use of the legislature to deepen and strengthen governance.
The fact many are today aggrieved, anxious, suspicious of and are intolerant with each other is enough to turn our attention to a system that portends to offer an environment where we can peacefully co-exist in mutual respect. Acceptance of this possibility does not ignore the potential for ethnic conflicts but recognises the pluses that could be derived from proceeding in this direction.
Guyana can no longer be hamstrung by the absence of political will. We can no longer remain wedded to misunderstanding of the constitution, hatred for the instrument because of who it is associated with, gripped by fear of losing control or obsessed with hugging power. As per the constitution power is decentralised from the Executive right down to the NDCs- the grassroots. Underpinning this is recognition that whereas we are from diverse strains, diversity is not a wedge, but a strength, requiring the pooling of our resources for the development of the collective good. This presents opportunity to rise above historical conflicts under a political system that can guarantee the protection and well-being of all.
The electoral process is about competing for power and determining its distribution based on results/winnings. Competition is good for the body politics. There is no need to further share ministries. It is a ridiculous notion. The Executive is for the Government to run and the government must have in place their ministerial functionaries to do the job, not the opposition.
The Opposition shares power at the level of the legislature where laws are made and oversight of the Executive is exercised by the Opposition. This is shared government at this nation’s highest forum. The Opposition’s role is to give oversight to the Government (protect the people from government excess). So to talk about sharing ministries is diluting the role of the Opposition and absorbing them in one force, diminishing their oversight capacity, role and function.
(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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