Govt and Opposition must heed UN’s advice

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The address last Saturday, October 24, 2020 by United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Mikiko Tanaka is just what this nation needed but will the parliamentary parties listen or ignore this voice of reason? It is about time somebody delivers to the nation’s leaders some unvarnished truths and there is no other better place.

Guyanese remember during the election standoff Ms. Tanaka stood apart from other members in the diplomatic community. Hers was the reasoned, sobering, and impartial voice that reminded Guyana what makes the UN an important organisation to world peace. Not one to be careless with language or mincing words, she pandered to none but urged “peace,” “credible results that reflect the will of the people,” the tempering of remarks and the need for patience as the court did its work.

In July, hers was the sobering and constructive advice in the heat of the court fight that “as the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice is awaited, we call on all political leaders and their supporters to remain patient and refrain from acts and remarks that could incite hostility or violence,” reiterating UN’s commitment to continue to support the people of Guyana. Even those who felt cheated could not fault the UN’s effort was not to incite but aid peace.

It is this integrity Ms. Tanaka brought to her remarks last Saturday that are deserving not only of attention but acting on. She urged- “When the margin between the government and opposition is one or two seats, parliamentary decision-making should entail consensus-building and compromise to be inclusive of all Guyanese citizens. Parliamentary oversight should go beyond opposing and defending, and genuinely serve to improve accountability and performance of the public sector in the interest of every citizen. Parliament would not be viable if no-confidence motions and judicial actions become political instruments.”

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This was a clear message to the politicians to do better by the people. For too long they have been failing the voters and society by extension. The continuous abuse of the people’s power will only stop when the people accept that they deserve to be treated better and insist the politicians go to work for the people. Parliament is a far cry from the pre and post-independence periods. Rather than showing improvement in substance and performance there is decline.

The legislative arm of government has been reduced to just yeas and nays, depending which side of the aisle makes the proposal. There seems to be no room for discussion and compromise based on the merit and demerit of what is proposed. People either do not know or care not for the art of consensus-building and compromise. Honour has fled the Honourable House or is being suppressed in an unyieldingness and hard-nosed politics honed to a crude art form. Decorum is often void of seriousness.

The language, quality of debate, heckling and rebuttal are far cries from what those hallowed halls were once known for.  Discourses very often sound like rabble rousing, amateurship. There seems to be little interest in serious legislative review and understanding of the issues before speaking to them. Even when evidence is presented the arguments are incoherent and references at times out of place. All are not guilty but where they continue to allow insipid and crude behaviour to dominate they become subsumed or complicit.

At the same time, the Government continues to ignore it was not elected by all and the Opposition has almost as much support as they do. The administration is setting conditions for engagement which are not required by the Constitution. Though the election remains contested, and the cases are about to be heard in court, the government is demanding to be recognised as legitimate. The demand is made fully cognisant the Opposition will not accede. It is a ploy to deflect responsibility and respect for the other half of society and it should be called out.

Things must change and for the better. It is doable, it can be achieved. This can be achieved through negotiation, finding common ground and both sides gaining something for their supporters. The zero-sum game is counter-productive and nauseating. It hinders the desire for economic and social development of the people irrespective of which party they voted or did not vote for.



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