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The just concluded debate in the National Assembly on the National Budget must give this nation pause. This was an exercise in futility for the parliamentary opposition that represents half of the nation. Inspite of drawing the nation and government’s attention to the shortcomings in the Budget, the government will not budge. Their contempt for the other half of society was evident in the presentations of some which were unbecoming for the august body. Listening was a nightmare and burden for those who could recall the era of substantial parliamentary debates.
It is a shame what political representation in the House has descended to. These persons are being paid by us to serve us whether we voted for them or not and they continue to fall short. The arrogance, crassness and intellectual laziness were on display for the world to see what now graces the hallowed hall of the nation’s highest decision-making forum. And this would continue unless we the people not only demand better but insist on better through legislative action.
This society is politically divided right down the middle. One half supports the Opposition and has entrusted the responsibility to that side to represent their interests at the decision-making table. The other half supports the Government and expects likewise. Together both comprise the electorate and their families. This is as simple as it is and cannot be ignored. Parliamentary conduct, particularly on grave matters like a National Budget, cannot continue as though it is the remit of a few or even half of the society.
What in effect the PPP has done is singularly determine for the other half of society what they must have. Moreso, by ignoring the input of the Opposition they are not only violating the spirit and intent of the Parliament to function as a unitary force but are openly communicating to society that they don’t care about the welfare of the other half or what people think about them. Their conduct is striking at man’s most fundamental right and desire for self-determination. In our ethnically divided nation, it has serious repercussions for the realisation of the national motto- One People, One Nation, One Destiny.
The sloganeering of ‘One Guyana’ is a myth because there can be no oneness when half the society is deprived, marginalised and denied their rights. We cannot support such primitive thinking and behaviour.
We are all Guyanese. The resources of this nation belong to ALL of us. There is a constitutional role for the Opposition, and it is not cosmetic. The Opposition, apart from serving as a check and balance on the Executive, also represents the interests of a constituency. That representation must be respected and form part of the nation’s decision-making processes. This is the principle that informed the Trade Union Movement initiation and fight for one man one vote and internal self-government. This principle still stands.
How could it be fair, acceptable, and humane that the Opposition got NOTHING from the Budget? This cannot be glossed over nor cheered. The politics of total exclusion will not create a compliant society; it will create a cauldron of boiling resentment which will boil over. It is a shame in the 21st Century and two decades after “inclusionary democracy” was enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana, persons are still holding fast to the thinking that saw several uprisings in our history.
Where our forebears fought against atrocity from the period of slavery, to indentureship and colonisation, these new leaders should know people will not acquiesce when they put on the garments and characters we fought against. It is total madness and highly unacceptable what we are witnessing in the 52nd year as a Republican nation, which saw us as a people severing the final yoke of being dominated.
Half of the society is being denied the right to political, economic, cultural, and social self-determination. The call is being made again to Members of Parliament, particularly the Opposition, to bring bills to the National Assembly to give meaning to “inclusionary democracy” as enshrined in Article 13. This is the Principal Objective of the Political System, and it must be given a chance to work.
We cannot sit silent and allow the Government to think the other half that pay their taxes, and are also citizens, that it is acceptable to ignore and exclude their input in shaping a Budget that will impact their lives.
A National Budget is a nation’s Development Plan for a fiscal year. Such a plan requires the input of the citizenry, individually or represented by their political leaders and stakeholders. Yours truly and the Guyana Trades Union Congress are on record, for years, calling for the passage of the Budget to not be by a simple majority. A simple majority promotes and celebrates division, which goes contrary to Article 13, and legitimises the exclusion of others in determining how the national resources should be allocated for their benefit.