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Note is taken of the formation of a new group, named Article 13, with the declared intent to pursue an approach in giving meaning to Article 13 in the Constitution of Guyana, which is the principal objective of our political system. It has been almost 21 lonely years, of more than 40 years of struggle in this country, that I have been advocating for society to pay attention to and give meaning to Article 13. Today, it is encouraging to note that silent listeners who have been listening to me are coming out.
The constitutional Article 13 speaks to, “The principal objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.”
On 5th March 2019, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), of which yours truly is the General Secretary, laid before then President David Granger, Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo and the nation a 19-point Proposal to bring about deepening of the decision-making processes between and among the government, opposition, and relevant stakeholders. The proposal urged dialogue between and among groups, of which the trade union is a part as prescribed in Article 149C, to burning issues, namely: –
1) The Establishment of an Industrial court; 2) Unemployment Benefit; 3) Health; 4) Education; 5) National Budget; 6) Women and Youth Representation; 7) Regional Members of Parliament; 8) Senior Citizens; 9) Judiciary; 10) Composition of State Boards; 11) Establishment of the constitutional Human Rights Commission; 12) Establishment & continual function of all constitutional Commissions and Tribunal, and Boards; 13) Establishment of Economic Council; 14) Oil and Gas Industry; 15) Land Policy and Rights; 16) Amendment to Article 106(6) of the Guyana Constitution; 17) Legislation and convention; 18) State media; and 19) Campaign finance reform. This proposal is in the public domain.
In the formation of the Civil Society Forum in 2020, Article 13 was presented by yours truly on behalf of the GTUC, as critical to forging conversations and actions for national development and strengthening democracy.
Whereas I remain an advocate for Article 13, Rights and the Rule of Law, and consistently advocated inclusion not exclusion of the actors that form the pillars for decision making, and those social partners as mandated in the Constitution to be in the decision making, I have too advocated to bring more into the tent. Consequently, I have also sought inclusion of other interest groups in efforts to ensure democracy filters through all layers of society.
This nation has been deprived of meaningful strides to development based on destructive political, racist, partisan, and self-serving agenda even by people and legal minds who ought to have known better. Guyana has suffered major casualties over the years by those who sought to divide the nation, giving the impression the Constitution was not entrenched principles to forge a nation of One People, One Destiny. Those who have opposed the education, understanding and implementation of the Constitution, and not urged its strengthening but trampling on, have been the greatest humbug to inclusion and equitable development in this country.
No doubt society could be better served with the formation of the Article 13 group, coming after the formation of the Civil Society Forum, and any subsequent group of similar nature. For wherever commonalities lie, should we focus more on what bind rather than divide us as Guyanese such augur well for achieving peace, harmony, personal and national development. Such involvement could also be the forum through which differences can be resolved.
Recognition is given to the group’s desire to use Article 13 to ensure that our “election machinery can never be hijacked by a minority bent on subverting democracy.” The nation and world have seen, whereas election may rely on individual vote, a small cabal-both internal and external- of special interest people, criminal (narco and other) businesses, money, external interest, and those who manipulate election machinery, government and people, could compromise the electoral laws and processes and subvert the true will of the people.
In “inclusionary democracy,” the rights of minority groups- which is different from nefarious minority forces- are of no lesser import than those of the majority. “Inclusionary democracy” respects the rights of all. Where this country continues to ignore this fundamental or there is support for such transgression, in whatever form, we would not be living up to the spirit, intent and ideals of our political system as prescribed in Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana. This Article should not be trifled with but followed to the letter.