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February 23 marked the 51st anniversary of the Republic. As fortune occasioned, there was no Mash this year (2021). This may well have provided the opportunity for reflective moments about the Republic. In such a moment, the rudimentary question: What does being a republic signify, should have come to mind.
The concept of the Republic may be traced back, in actuality, to the City State of Athens where the citizens were sovereign and actually assembled routinely to decide on matters of Public Affairs. The articulation of the concept and its application, in more complex circumstances, can be associated with the birthing of the United States of America and the outcome of the French Revolution. In all of the aforementioned instances, the Republic was intended to be the establishment of a State where sovereignty resides in the citizens. The citizens were intended to be the ultimate decision makers; and Democracy the institutional arrangements processes for the realization of that ideal. As earlier mentioned, the City State of Athens, literally, saw the citizens assembling to deliberate on, and determine, matters of State. What pertained in Athens at that time was mainly due to Athens` smallness of size and population. The largeness of America and France however required different institutional arrangements, hence the emergence of the representative or consultative democracy, the Rule of Law and the Separation of Powers as the framework for the retention and endurance of citizens` power (sovereignty).
In our moment of thought, as a Nation, it therefore behooves us to reflect on what it means to be a Republic and more importantly whether or not we have established the institutional arrangements that are necessary, in the circumstances of our plural/heterogeneous society, for the realization of the Republic that Guyana was intended to be.
In that regard, we are required to determine whether our Constitution is of the peoples` making and is indeed the Charter of the people (their social contract) in respect of who governs, how they govern and what are the objects of their governance. This determination would inevitably revolve around issues such as our governance structures; how they are established; what purpose do they serve; how accountable are they; and what mechanisms are in place for their growth and development, in response to societal needs.
Notwithstanding the uniqueness of each and every country, principles have emerged, which in the context of democracy/republicanism can be used to guide the establishment of a republic and to measure the degree of the realization of the ideal. These principles are known as the Principles of Good Governance. They are disaggregated thus: Inclusion, Transparency, Equity, Accountability, Integrity and Openness.
In the particular circumstance of Guyana, as would be the case in any other country, those principles have to be localized/adapted in their application.
In the aforementioned context, Inclusion has to be reflected in the composition of, and participatory involvement of the various interests and sectors of society, in the decision making and administrative processes and institutions. In that regard, attention has to be paid to the diversity/heterogeneity of the Guyanese society.
Transparency has to be pivoted on the Rule of Law to ensure that there is fairness in the decision making processes. There should be equality in treatment of like matters based on predetermined principles.
Transparency, however, has to be tempered with Equity to ensure that the disadvantaged are equalized in their access to opportunities. Predetermined exemptions/concessions have to be built into the decision making processes for the disadvantaged.
In all that is done, officials should be held Accountable for their actions, which should be prescribed, regulated, reviewable; and punishable, if the officials are found to be in breach.
In addition to the pertinent laws, Codes of Conduct should be developed to ensure that the standards for ethical conduct, in public affairs, are articulated and known to all.
All of the aforementioned should be complemented by Openness. Openness should allow for interested parties and the citizenry at large to have access to information, thus empowering them to interrogate the integrity of the decision making and administrative systems.
It should be noted that none of the principles of Good Governance stands alone. They make up a matrix, which should be applied holistically, since they are inter-related and inter-dependent.
The aforementioned principles should be supplemented by commitment to efficacy, the efficient use of resources for the achievement of a desired result. At the end of the day, the citizens in the exercise of their sovereignty should be seeking to have done what is good for them (the State).
The Nation should be reflecting to determine where we are in the project of building a Republic, after 51years of its inauguration.