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Christmas is in the air and President Irfaan Ali has assumed the role of Jolly Old Saint Nicholas. He is the modern-day Santa Claus, not straddled on a sleigh and definitely too plump to be climbing down chimneys but sure enough, with a loud Ho, Ho, Ho, he’s doling out toys and gifts as he visits the many villages. Last week Thursday, the Head of State led a group of men associated with the ‘Men on Mission’ (MOM) initiative to the Herstelling, East Bank Demerara area to demolish, and subsequently, reconstruct the home of an octogenarian, Meena Bafan,
While the uninitiated onlooker applauds such humanitarian and chivalrous gestures, those nationalistically oriented citizens are more likely to examine these public relations platitudes and expose the true nature of such ‘sleight of hand’ gimmicks. Even before it was merely a supposition, President Ali advocated a “one Guyana” policy, meant to unify our people. One would have expected that this mantra of love and unity would have commenced from the top thus filtering down to the very proletariat but, sadly, the sordid reality relays a different, and may I stress, dismal picture.
The visionaries of our constitution were cognisant of the complexity of the race composition and, not being myopic, they concurrently structured the document to suit the realities. Naturally, situations and circumstances would necessitate future revamping to cater to modern-day needs and changes. Unfortunately, our two main political groups hardly engage in structured dialogue and if they do, it is either in condescending tones or using the most derogatory words and terminologies which render the process counter-productive. This is in absolute contrast to the ‘one Guyana’ mantra which advocates the concept of peace, love, and unity, all aimed at progress.
The PPP/C is currently installed for over two years yet the leaders of the ruling cabal are yet to sit and discuss pertinent issues with the major opposition party (APNU+AFC), aimed at the inclusivity and/or unity of the races. Several of these issues immediately come to mind including but not limited to, the appointment of senior judicial officers, constitution reform, prudent management of the oil and gas sector, and electoral reform. The extant situation has taken a toll on the mental and psychological well-being of a substantial portion of the Guyanese population who simply wish that these issues be resolved in a timely and feasible manner.
Instead, the ruling cabal has adopted an obstinate stance to not meaningfully engage the political opposition, and if they reluctantly do, oftentimes it is woefully confrontational. The ‘rulers of the land,’ who are also the guardian of the nation’s purse, presumptuously engage in a procedure of inequitable resource allocation which, even though lauded by the few beneficiaries, only serves to further heighten the unfortunate incidence of political disharmony in all spheres of political activity.
The government obviously has money to burn thanks to the oil and gas bonanza. Rather than consult with the opposition, as enshrined in the constitution, the ruling cabal chose to unilaterally execute projects at the national and community levels. Santa Clause, or should that be ‘Santa Ali?’ rides into the villages with his elves and unilaterally doles out gifts in absolute disrespect of local government bodies that are constitutionally mandated to perform such roles.
Indeed, this is the joyous season and during this period of goodwill, President Ali’s gestures will commendably resonate, especially among the beneficiaries of his generosity. Unfortunately, such goodwill only serves to divide the citizens and obfuscate the pivotal aspect of his agenda of doling out the country’s patrimony in an ethnically lopsided fashion.
Ever since touching down from the North Pole, ‘Santa Ali’ has opted to ignore local government authority, a deceptive ploy that goes against the grain of devolution of power/authority and democracy. During this season of goodwill, it would have been a magnanimous gesture had ‘Santa Ali’ adopted an inclusive approach in keeping with his ‘One Guyana’ mantra. Naturally, community projects would have been widely supported and approved had the relevant stakeholders experienced that aura of inclusivity.
Unfortunately, the guardians of the state apparatus have pointedly ignored the political sensitivity of communities across Guyana and continue to dole out the nation’s patrimony to a selected and privileged group. President Ali, the modern-day Santa Claus, somehow ignores the fact that Guyana comprises a plural society with a deep racial fault line that will not disappear overnight.
The co-opting of a few self-serving African elves to positions of authority, as witnessed by the formation of a PPP group in Mocha/Arcadia, cannot fill the chasm or eliminate the ethnic distrust that exists in our society. Our political elites must first acknowledge the problem and collectively aspire to work towards a commendable resolution. Only then we will achieve our motto “One People, One Nation, One Destiny” or as President Ali puts it, ‘one Guyana.’
As a Pan-Africanist, I suggest that the cultural heritage of our ancestral villages must be preserved and for this reason, I am totally against the modus operandi of the ruling cabal. It is imperative that the central government conform to the principle of free prior and informed consent which engenders structural ‘bottom-up’ participation and consultation prior to project implementation in ancestral villages. Hopefully, this principle earns a final place at the UN African Forum in Geneva in 2022.
Our ancestral villages abound with lands, sadly, are unoccupied and unproductive, and herein lies the solution to our economic woes. Those occupying ancestral lands must aspire to heighten production as of the past; Central Government has an obligation to support such nationalistic ventures.
The call for meaningful engagement amongst political elites has resonated across this land ever since time immemorial. Our political representatives are placed in a position of authority to act in the best interest of the nation-state. Guyanese, and more particularly, rural Africans who have access to lands, must return to the backlands and engage in agricultural activities to better their economic fortunes and rise above all adversities. This should be the gift to this nation from our Santa Clause President!