Sep 20, 2020 Letters
It is almost two decades since “inclusionary democracy” was enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana as the “principal objective” of the “political system” as per Article 13. In the intervening period this nation has seen the Desmond Hoyte/Bharrat Jagdeo Agreement (May 2001) and the Robert Corbin/Bharrat Jagdeo Communiqué (May 2003), neither of which saw implementation by the Jagdeo government.
In 2015, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) coalition government moved to have engagement with the opposition, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), on what the coalition referred to as a “unity government.” The government team was headed by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo. Those talks got off to a rocky start because the PPP/C resisted engagement given who was the leader of the coalition’s team. President Granger acquiesced to the objection and agreed to head the coalition’s team. He took ill, the country went through the period of the no-confidence vote, election, and the rest is now history.
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and yours truly over the years have led the charge to give meaning to this consented form of governing, given that the nation’s “objective” was arrived at after nationwide involvement in the Constitutional Reform exercise of 1999/2001. GTUC in March 2019 wrote President David Granger and Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo bringing to their attention the need to push ahead in giving meaning to Article 13 and outlined some areas the Congress felt are deserving of immediate attention.
GTUC went further. In an idea birthed by us, in 2019 we co-founded with some of civil society the Civil Society Forum (CSF) to advance the conversation on “inclusionary democracy” and realise its implementation. At that forum, our understanding of the principle was shared. Unfortunately, this grouping was overrun by others with a partisan political agenda to support the PPP/C in their 2020 election efforts. GTUC’s interest remains constant, unwavering.
The fight led by the Father of Trade Unionism in Guyana, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, in 1926 for one man, one vote (universal suffrage) and self-government was to realise a political system where citizens exercise the right to vote, and have their elected leaders represent their interests in a system of government that is inclusive.
In 2020 that interest has not changed but becomes more urgent given a series of recent events. No section of this society can continue to ignore or disrespect the constitutional right to freedom of association and concomitant protection from discrimination in exercising the said right. Government, Opposition, civil society, and citizens must understand the prevailing and just position that none can effectively govern at the exclusion of any group and their leaders having a seat at the decision-making table.
Recent hate crimes, racial antagonisms and ethnic divisions which have resulted in violence (physical and verbal), whereas these may serve to the interest of some, they do the collective no good. Last Monday, when the Opposition in the National Assembly sought to frontally discuss racial strife in this branch of government, it offered hope that our politicians can rise to the occasion for the good of Guyana. Those of us who lived through the racial conflicts of the 1960s, or lost loved ones because of, know how dangerously close we were/are to repeating an era best left in the past.
Member of Parliament Raphael Trotman’s forceful address confirms the possibilities of deliberative decision-making at the political level. The call is being made here today to those Members of the House desirous of addressing our racial angst to lay before the Assembly a motion on the matter. We must commence frank, honest, and open discussions on race relations and governance.
The constitutional right of every citizen and group to involvement “… 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” must no longer be ignored. Equally, it could no longer be accepted that any has the right to impose on the other or determine for the other what they will get or is good for them. This was not the aspiration of the trade union movement in 1926 when we laid the modern foundation, in this land, for a new system of government.
The trade union’s aspiration for inclusivity remains the same. The urgency is even more pressing now. We must be able to do better as Guyanese not inspite of our diversity but because of it. We remain One People, living in One Land, and by virtue of the two are bonded by One Destiny.
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