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There was a great feeling to see the pictures of the PPP Government and the combined PNCR-AFC Opposition in the same room, gathered around the same table, and engaged in a conversation towards the same objective. Any kind of conversation. The fact that it was a constructive one only adds luster to the assembling of Guyanese political leadership, and meeting of minds. Indeed, this rarest of rare domestic political moments was extraordinary. The irony, the revelation, is that what is extraordinary should be the most ordinary aspect of life in Guyana. Still, I laud both sides, all the leaders and their team members huddled in that common space to concentrate their thinking, to share their wisdom, to address a common cause. In one word: Venezuela. In the close to a thousand that follow, all that the escalation of tensions by Caracas encompasses, and the implications of those for this smaller country.
Guyana stays bitterly divided, and there is no chance. Not even of engaging and motivating and inspiring citizens towards a cohesive whole. It took a palpable Venezuelan crisis to bring Guyanese leaders to that rare space of sharing, to figure out how to prepare and stave off what has all the markings of a manmade calamity at its core. A unified Guyana knitted by commonsense can manage better, stand stronger, faceoff against those who rally their own to grab at what is our own. It is my view that Venezuela must be more than a bridge that pushes leaders to close the national divide. Venezuela must be the beginning to more communications (deep arm’s length conversations); the first edges unfurling of a vision for a smoother, brighter Guyana. There must be more than the political and racial blights with which have tormented generations of sons and daughters of this land.
It is the same land that is coveted. The same seas and mountains that stir so much greed in our neighbor because of how much is inside of them, above and around and beneath them. Now I risk sounding like an exile from a movie which few wish to watch, an extra in a program that only the thoughtful would listen to, or read, or bother to contemplate. Now, leaders in the PPP Government and the Opposition must go beyond the Venezuelan threat that is so resplendent with grimness, so expressive with intended predatory rapacity.
If Guyanese are to live with the fruits of their gifts, their wealth, they must learn to live with one another and themselves. It will be trying, tiresome, and error prone. But it could be written, it would be remembered, that try we did. I, for one, am not afraid of failure; some learning comes from such instances; and from learning, the probability to grow. This country will rise together; or it will fall apart, when apart. Venezuela has shown that it can galvanize and grind leaders (us) forward-through clashing gears, through gritted teeth even-to a place of parsing and pushing for the power that are in our hands. Surely, we can see what electrifies neighbors to frenzies fraught with more than peril. It is of what is locked inside Guyana, of what could be, when in hand. Their hands.
Essequibo is neither barren desert nor hardscrabble wilderness. Essequibo is lush with cornucopias of opulence that would tempt monks, make saints forget vows of holiness. Essequibo is worth standing for, fighting for, living for, and dying for [should such a terminal state arise]. But the flowers of Guyana’s wealth must be scented and tasted by all Guyanese, shared in a fair and balanced manner. The first conversations on the Venezuelan peril have begun. The next conversations, the first local ones, must also be launched on the national patrimonies that form the basis for the passions that instigate neighbors working themselves into enduring enemies.
Of this there must be no further quibbling: what is behind Venezuela’s ambitions must be what powers Guyanese political, racial, and social convictions. It is a short story: wealth. This wealth that hurtles so many from so many places to here, now serves as the engine that races our Venezuelan neighbors into Guyanese consciousness. This is no longer on the edges; it is in the center, and it is an alarming
Therefore, the tasks before Government and Opposition leadership are to unite Guyanese first. To involve all Guyanese, second. To open the doors to the fullest extent of cross-sectional participation by all Guyanese in the national patrimony, third. To incentivize every Guyanese into thinking, and believing, that they are actual, beneficiaries of the great wealth of Guyana that incites Venezuelan leaders to points of no return. Every Guyanese must sense, must think, must feel, that he or she is fully vested in the wealth of this nation, which serves as the compulsions that convulse neighbors to the brink.
Considering this hovering crisis, there cannot, should not, be the expectation on the part of PPP Government and leadership that the Opposition (PNC, AFC, et al) is present and convenient to lend unambiguous and unblemished support for Guyana’s sacred rights. While, in the next breath, the Guyanese who cling to those Opposition parties have no rights when it comes to the fair apportioning of national riches. Stated differently, the conversations of today must extend to overcome exclusion. They must foster the expenditure of reciprocal political goodwill and capital towards the inclusion that is Guyana’s Achilles heel.
The time is almost here for leaders to be more than about talking about Venezuela only. About the dangers from that agitated source. About self-protection and national self-preservation. The time is now to encircle and include, and with not one Guyanese left untouched, as in lagging because of being left out. The rarity of full battalions of leaders from the PPP Government and the PNC+AFC Opposition meeting for national unity on Venezuela must become what is most ordinary. The ready and steady feature prominently in the face of the probably deadly. The identical ability to be ready and steady to combat national disharmony must transcend into the routine of the daily.