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By Lincoln Lewis
I beg to differ with Stabroek News’ Page One Comment (Thursday, December 30, 2021) because at its core it failed to acknowledge the normal cause and effect factors and universally acceptable principles. The reactions by Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) in Parliament, on Wednesday (December 29, 2021), which were derided did not happen in a vacuum.
Many national stakeholders, including the Guyana Trades Union Congress, had called on the Irfaan Ali/Bharrat Jagdeo government to put a pause to the passage of amendments to the National Resource Fund (NRF) Bill to allow for wider consultation and input. These entreaties were ignored. The Opposition parliamentarians, who represent half of the society, made a similar appeal. This too was ignored.
It is of import to remind ourselves the ‘Principal political objective’ of our political system is that of forging an “inclusionary democracy” as prescribed in Article 13 in the Constitution of Guyana. President Ali had the opportunity to ensure this by facilitating engagement and benefiting from the input of other stakeholders, including the parliamentary opposition, on how we the people will manage our oil and gas revenue.
The removal of the original oversight committee, which had the benefit of a 22- member organisation involvement, is a grave travesty. The unilateral excising of this involvement tramples on Article 13 by shutting out significant sections of society from being involved in this important aspect of the management and decision-making processes of the State that impact our collective well-being.
The foundation of this nation was birthed on slavery, and later followed by indentureship and colonisation. Our ancestors fought these systems of oppression by all the means available to them. Some condemned those acts ignoring the causes that influenced such actions. SN took a similar approach in its Page One Comment.
As a descendant of enslaved ancestors and a trade unionist, it is not lost on me what it means to fight for what is just and fair, and to be treated with respect and dignity. Similarly, it is understood that in the process of doing so, those contemptuous of the rights of others would seek to demonise the response rather than examine what led to the action. In moments of discomfort and violation, it is unreasonable to expect the affected to operate as though all is well.
If we look back at our history the enslaved, indentured and colonised engaged in not dissimilar acts to bring attention to their grievances and agitate for better treatment. In the context where these took place, as was done on Wednesday, these actions are understood.
The responsibility for the street protest and Wednesday’s parliamentary action by the coalition opposition should be laid squarely at Ali’s feet. It is his conduct that should be condemned in the strongest of terms. For his was the opportunity, as President of this nation, to intercede and give meaning to Article 13 by delaying passage of the Bill to allow for input as requested by stakeholders.
As an aside, but of equal import to note, is the following:-
1. The Page One Comment singled out the APNU MPs for castigation, notedly the PNC, but ignored the AFC and other Opposition MPs in the coalition who were also in the parliamentary protest.
2. The late Cheddie Jagan, Leader of the PPP, staged several protests in the National Assembly, one of which was knocking down the mace. Other PPP MPs threw flour on the Parliament floor and knocked down the lawbooks. At the time they said their actions were the result of feeling their voices were shut out and the input of their constituents not considered.
3. On the 2020 Elections, the evidence is there of the storming of the Elections headquarters, the attack and injuring of innocent school children and other citizens by leaders and supporters of the PPP. The PPP was no noble bystander during the elections in as much as some would want society to think otherwise.
The absence of integrity in those elections was revealed for all to see during the Recount and based on the laws. Petitions are now before the court for adjudication as to the legality, or in common parlance, to know who rigged or didn’t rig or benefited from the rigging.
This society can only heal and the people move forward as one when truth, right or wrong is determined by universally acceptable principles not by who committed the act.