The Constitution is not our problem- our problem is absence of political will & visionless leadership

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Poor race relations lie not in the Guyana Constitution but in the hearts and minds of those who lack appreciation for cultural and ethnic diversity. In our political space it is the absence of political will. Some seek political mileage and cover for their racial intolerance by trying to convince others that the racial problem in Guyana lies in the Constitution. They must take the moth out of their eyes.

Inherent in the said constitution are basic rights inspired from United Nations Declarations, International Labour Organisation Conventions, amongst other internationally acceptable principles. Guyana’s social, economic and political problems are not the function of the Constitution.

A constitution comprises declarations which are statements of intent that require the concomitant laws to be developed to make sure the intent is realised. This is where the absence of political will exists- in the legislature, executive, amongst some leaders of civil society and in the trade unions. The ease to speak about the problems in society equals the ease in ignoring the supreme law that could set about addressing the problems that ail society.

The Constitution allows for conversations on race and minimising racism through institutions and actions. To ignore specific declarations such as Article 13, Article 149C, the constitutional commissions and agencies that address issues of fundamental rights and inclusion is to the nation’s peril. The Human Rights Commission is yet to be activated. The Ethnic Relations Commission has been hindered from functioning consistent with the spirit and intent that realised its inclusion in the Constitution.

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Article 13, which speaks to establishing a political system built on inclusionary democracy, is yet to realise any legislation. The devolution of power to the regional and local government organs, consistent with the Constitution has seen no significant movement, has not moved beyond a Bill which was brought to the National Assembly during the Desmond Hoyte administration but never got out of the parliamentary select committee.

Every day foreign nationals are coming to our shores to seek to exploit the opportunities from our natural resources. Since oil and gas, many have become carpetbaggers, and are being enticed by the Government with huge tax concessions and prime pieces of land, whilst the working poor continue to shoulder the nation’s tax burdens and many wait donkey years to get a 50 x 100 feet house lot in some underdeveloped area.

Bharrat Jagdeo recently announced there will be the importing of labour to fill jobs in oil and gas. The audacity. This nation had five years to get prepared but was instead held hostage to political immaturity. Voices of yours truly, the Guyana Trades Union Congress, and others calling for a national approach, that would be inclusive of all stakeholders in society, to properly prepare Guyanese to productively engage in the industry fell on deaf ears.

There is no reason why from 2015 to now Guyana could not have produced a significant number of artisans and semi-skilled workers to meet the new job demands. Enough time is not being spent to put this nation and the people’s interest first. The masses, knowingly or unknowingly, have become pawns in the divisive politics and greed propagated by a few. If we don’t get our act together, sooner rather than later, many Guyanese will become second class citizens in their homeland, employed in low paying jobs, or either underemployed or unemployed.

Guyana is facing a political crisis of epic proportion. Guyanese are being burdened with leaders who lack vision and could only see development through a process of marginalising persons, discriminating against groups, and using the resources of the state as handouts to family, friends, supporters, and cohorts.

I reiterate, the Guyana Constitution is not our problem. Nobody has gone through this constitution and pointed us to where any of the declarations enshrined within excludes or militates against the right of any racial group or individual, prevent the participation of any ethnic group, or shut out persons from involvement in the management and decision-making processes of the State that impact their wellbeing.

It is time to admit the dysfunction, mistrust, divisive and rapacious governing lies not in the Constitution but in the absence of political will, to be good to those who are seen as threats or who are perceived to be different looking. It lies in the quest for power to dominate, to control and to deny. It is mean spirited and rooted in supremacists’ belief systems cultivated from young, in the homes, religious institutions and various enclaves. Those who are historically victims of racism and ethnic supremacy are too busy trying to be treated fairly though defensive racism is real and has also played a part in how we treat each other.

The Constitution is not our problem. Shared government, government of national unity, inclusive government or whatever we want to call the type of government that gives every group a seat at the table, requires all be treated with respect and dignity, is already enshrined in the Constitution. We the people must advocate for same and hold the political operatives responsible for making it realisable.

 



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