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As Russia and Ukraine are entangled in a war where lives are being lost and properties destroyed there are efforts being made, by both sides, for dialogue with the intent of arriving at a resolution. In Guyana what we are experiencing is a situation where a government has taken a position that it will not engage the major parliamentary opposition and attacks sections of civil society that seek to hold them to account. Whereas there is no physical war here the political war is equally debilitating. We cannot build a society or peacefully coexist in an environment of hostility and intolerance; where some benefit and others are marginalised and placed on the fringe.
The Preamble of the Constitution of Guyana requires that we “Forge a system of governance that promotes concerted effort and broad-based participation in national decision-making in order to develop a viable economy and a harmonious community based on democratic values, social justice, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law.” This is the overarching spirit and intent to guide development, through a set of principles that would guide our relationship, the management of our business, and the security and protection of the nation-state.
It should be a matter of high national priority to forge ahead with the system of governance we set for themselves. Article 13 which outlines the ‘Objective of the political system’ expressly states, “The principal objective of the 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.”
“Inclusionary democracy” replaced “consultative democracy” with the 1999 Constitutional Reform exercise. Whereas the once consultative process lent to and justified exclusion of stakeholders- political and non-political, inclusion is expected to bring about greater involvement and ensure the human rights of all in the developmental process of the people and country-i.e. to be treated as equal with dignity and respect.
Article 13, which represents a declaration of intent, awaits legislation to strengthen and deepen the democratic processes of the State. More than two decades after it is yet to see any meaningful action from the politicians through laws, programmes, and policies. Where the politicians- who are representatives of the people- are failing to act, the people must demand actions from them.
Continuing to ignore the citizenry, and the spirit and intent of the Constitution to forge a unitary society would be to the nation’s peril. Government must stop seeing those expressing alternative opinions as enemies of the state and accept that such are normal human occurrence and constitutional protected. Government must stop seeing half the society as enemies of the State, start dialouguing and working with their leaders and other stakeholders in building a cohesive nation.
For instance, there is a constitutional role for the parliamentary opposition as it is for the trade union in the participation and development of the country. As per Articles 110 and 184 in our Constitution the Leader of the Opposition forms part of the Executive. Upholding the spirit and intent of inclusion it would be appreciated the Leader of the Opposition’s role is not only to oppose but to also oversight, propose and support. Article 149C outlined the role of the trade union expressly stating that “No person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of participating through co-operatives, trade unions, civic or socio-economic organisations of a national character, in the management and decision-making processes of the State.”
It is time for all, regardless of race, class or creed to benefit from this nation’s bounty. We are reminded of Guyana’s promise and the task of the people to fulfil in the words of ‘My Guyana, Eldorado’ and arise from the ashes of the past. We the people must move to ensure we forge the system of governance we set ourselves. We must eschew acts of non-cooperation and sabotage, transgressing of rights, violating laws, intolerance for dissent or alternative views. For too long these have stalled our growth, hovering over us as dark clouds hiding the bright potential of a nation and her people.