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Last Sunday this publication carried a story on Guyana’s political stalemate, which included comments by United States (U.S) Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch and acting United Kingdom (U.K) High Commissioner Ross Denny. Since August 2020 when the government changed, and President Irfaan Ali and Leader of the Opposition Joe Harmon were sworn into their respective offices they have never met. That is almost nine months.
The U.S and U.K have been allies of Guyana since independence. Their support for Guyana’s self-development is recognised even though there may be disagreement at times between Guyana and these countries. This is not unexpected given the nature of politics and national interest. Nonetheless, Guyanese are appreciative the diplomats have added their voices to the other voices of reason urging engagement between the President and Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Harmon has often communicated his willingness to meet with Mr. Ali. His position is correct given the nature of Guyana’s political system. Mr. Harmon has also communicated this directly to the President. Engagement between the two is being stalled because the President has set preconditions before any meeting could be held.
The President’s pre-conditions for meeting Mr. Harmon are for the latter to first voice recognition of the government and accept that it was the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change coalition that attempted to rig the election. These are not constitutional requirements for engagement between the two. Election petitions are also working their way through the courts and there has been no final judgement.
To the extent where there are manufactured hindrances to prevent meeting is not good for Guyana’s politics, the development of the country and people. Non-engagement between the two is hurting democracy and rule of law. There are constitutional stipulations for engagement and the matters that require the attention of both are being held up. There is also Guyanese long-held desire for national unity through inclusionary democracy as required by the Constitution of Guyana. High Commissioner Denny assured Guyana the U.K looks forward to working with the Government and Opposition in supporting democracy and the rule of law.
Politicians may not like each other, which is respected, but what politicians cannot do is allow their dislike for each other to interfere with their constitutional work. They may even be offended by something the other may have said about them, or do to them, but in their work as elected representatives of the people they must put these feelings aside. Their feelings are not more important than the welfare of those they have been elected to serve and should be governing in the interest of. The Ambassador and acting High Commissioner have said as much in diplomatic speak.
Ambassador Lynch was quoted saying “A healthy democracy requires robust debates from all points of view, and all voices deserve recognition.” If only this advice could not only be noted but respected between and among Guyana’s politicians. Both sides should likewise recognise, as the Ambassador said, that dialogue is important for a thriving democracy. Guyanese could only hope good sense prevails, and their leaders meet soonest without pre-conditions unrelated to the Constitution. For years citizens have been pleading after national unity and there is no better way to start this but through engagement between the two.