ERC needs to lead from high ground

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Dear Editor,

About fifteen years ago, one of my colleagues in the media told me that there are two things which were preventing Guyana from getting into a civil war; these two things were the airlines and the churches’. His point was that Guyanese had the option to leave Guyana, when frustrations got to high levels; and that Guyanese are deeply religious people, so they pray a lot, and they believe in God.

Last year, while in the midst of a pandemic, when the PPP/C government was terminating the services of many persons, charging several persons other and there was almost a bombardment in the media of the ills of the previous government. By October and November, 2020, based on the tensions which were rising in some sections of the society, I thought that the country was heading in the direction of civil unrest. For some reason, in late November through December last year to mid-January, the intensity of the tension was decreasing; however, from late January this year, the tension has started to increase again.

From my assessment, some of the main reasons for the tension in the latter part of last year was based on anger and disappointment with how the government was dealing with certain sections of the society. My assessment of some of the reasons for the tensions from mid-January, is based on more frustrations and hopelessness.

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Many people are unhappy with the government’s approach to governance and the optics are not pretty in some quarters. The question many people are asking is can they endure ‘This’ for the next five years? I think what the government needs to dissect is, what is the ‘This’ and address it. My conclusion is when people say ‘This’, they are referring to the government’s approach to governance relative to some sections of the population.

One of my concerns is that with the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are not leaving and cannot leave and not many people are able to go to churches to pray, and frustrations are rising, steadily.

On this note, it is with much disappointment that I read the letter in the press from some of the Commissioners from the Ethnic Relation Commission (ERC) on the matter relative to the APNU+AFC Member of Parliamentarian, Cathy Hughes. The ERC Commissioners who signed the letter in the press were apparently distancing themselves from an earlier letter that was published on Mrs. Hughes’ matter.

While I understand that the ERC may have an internal challenge which is being addressed, that should not have reached the press. The more professional approach would have been for the ERC to use its internal conflict resolution and conflict management system/processes to resolve its internal issues. If the ERC cannot resolve its internal issues in an amicable manner, then how can it be the good facilitator, mediator, and negotiator within our society on ethnic issues.

The ERC cannot lead on finding solutions and solving problems if it operates only from the valley with the masses. The leader sometimes has to climb to the top of the highest hill and survey the horizon, understand the various perspectives and dynamics, and then come back down and lead from that higher and wider understanding. One of my wise seniors once told my that it is not always about making the right decisions but sometimes as a leader or manager, you have to make the best decisions under the circumstances.

In 1994, over 800,000 people (more that Guyana’s population) were killed in a genocide in Rwanda, over a period of about 100 days; in less than a generation later, Rwanda had become one of the fastest growing African countries. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rwandan economy had a constant growth of 7.5 percent annually, for ten years.

Now if Rwanda could reconcile to a point where such a broken, hurt and devasted society, could move forward together, to a position of sustained economic growth for the country and its people, then surely Guyana and Guyanese can move past what happened in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, 2000’s, five months of electoral impasse in 2020; and reconcile our differences, come together, and move this country forward just like the Rwandans did.

However, the big question is, will our leaders allow us to move on? I want to move on. I am ready to move forward, Editor, are you? Are we as a people ready to reconcile and move forward?

Those of us who write, it is because we understand that we need to keep talking, we need to keep the conversation going, but even my fingers are getting tired of writing. Stabroek News and Kaieteur News, Village Voice, Social Media, keep publishing. I hope that those who have ears to hear, will hear.
Yours sincerely,

Audreyanna Thomas



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