Jul 14, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – We came across an interesting article in the June 19 edition of the New York Times, Dealbook section that was titled, “How Public Letters Became Companies’ Favourite Form of Activism” and the subheading of “Chief executives have signed countless statements in support of social causes over the last few years. Do they make a difference?” We at this paper think they could make a difference in the long run. It is something, which our own private sector business leaders, civil society contributors, and all citizens should use to act courageously and register their positions clearly.
In America, “strongly worded statements from some of the nation’s most prominent business figures” on such burning issues as “anti-LGBTQ legislation, police brutality against Black Americans, violence against Asian Americans and the recent efforts to restrict voting rights” have been made. We ask this simple question: where are our prominent Guyanese business leaders speaking out against governmental corruptions and secrecies, shady oil deals, and the frauds and trickeries of senior politicians, with our natural resources wealth? Where are those who talk big about democracy and clean governance, about reform? They can’t be so suspiciously silent and missing in action now.
As the Times article noted, “It can be easy to dismiss the significance of a letter as a tool of change. A signed statement is, quite literally, all talk, and it doesn’t guarantee any further action. But these letters also mark a shift in the relationship between companies and their employees and customers.” These public statements and positions pinpoint who stand where regarding the big issues that mean much to citizens.
This publication has set aside significant space, sacrificed revenues, to speak out against oil skullduggeries, at the hands of corrupt national political leadership in this government and the previous ones. We have created space so that as many citizens as can be accommodated can have their say and announced their positions for or against publicly. We did hear loudly from citizens about democracy and elections, but hear little today of fears and anxieties concerning their wealth that is being wasted secretly.
Why only tiny sounds from citizens today on their own prosperity? Why no strong position from the private sector on the obvious mismanagement of our oil and other resources that can enrich? Of course, we recognise that the private sector is fearful of speaking (publicly) to truth, or come across as biting (treacherously) the hand that feeds it, or risk incurring the wrath (quietly) of government leaders and being locked out (permanently) from partaking in the rich business opportunities that abound.
In the US workers and consumers “do not accept silence as neutrality anymore,” said assistant professor, Nooshin Warren of the University of Arizona. In this society, ask any citizen and there is no such thing as ‘neutrality’ anymore, not even for those who see themselves as neutral, uninvolved, or independent. A reasonable expectation is that since the present and future of every single Guyanese is impacted, for better or worse, by how our wealth is managed, that an army of citizens would be out in the public and making known where they stand and what they like or dislike about how the nation’s oil and general business is being handled.
Further, the Times article noted that it is safer to speak out and take a stance as group, which 100 companies did in a joint statement on restrictive voting rights. Thus, those Guyanese who pay attention have to be asking themselves one question of two groups: where is the private sector and the Chamber of Commerce? Casting a wider net, and with a bow to the spirited efforts of the Transparency Institute of Guyana, Inc. (TIGI), what has happened to civil society? Why is there a lack of voices, presences, and public outrage with leadership’s management of oil and other promising sectors?
Malia Lazu, a lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management stated, “The most important thing a letter does is publicly commit the individual or company to change and it “gives people who want to hold corporations accountable an IOU.” To local companies we add the media, civil society and society in general. Where are they? And why the public indifference?
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