The people’s sword and shield

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PRIME Minister Moses Nagamootoo at a Social Cohesion Validation Workshop held last Thursday, enunciated the role of the people in the management and decision-making processes of the State, as outlined in Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution. He reminded all that this article is the people’s sword and shield, which suggests intimation that the article cannot only be used to demand the people’s involvement from their government, but also protection against governments that want to exclude them.
The  purpose of our political system, as written in the article, outlines that “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.”
This article which came out of the constitutional reform process was arrived at given that it was felt, among other things, that “measures and arrangements for the improvement of race relations in Guyana include the contribution which equal-opportunities legislation and concepts drawn from the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society can contribute to the cause of justice, equity and progress in Guyana.”
Where its conceptualisation has its genesis in the dissatisfaction at the outcome of the 1997 elections by the then opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) and, more importantly, the fear and/or frustration of a significant segment of the population living under the administration of a party they had not supported to form the Government, gives greater credence to make it work, regardless of who is in government. There is no intention to argue the merits or demerits, validity or invalidity of these views, save to say that civility requires that where such fears, real or perceived, are expressed, they are worthy of addressing.
For years, the society has been told — and some have come to accept — that ours is a winner-take-all politics, whereby the party which has not secured the Executive, and its supporters, are denied. Whether this has merit or not is not the intent or attention save to say where Article 13 requires involvement it must be allowed to work. For this article lays the platform, via the nation’s supreme law, to establish and foster a political solution built on the involvement of all, irrespective of our diversity, but inclusive of the political party supported.
Government’s social cohesion push suggests that inclusionary democracy can be activated in its fullest and become the fillip in the process of nation-building. This means that the preference, harboured in certain quarters, to foster a politics of dissent or of “our time” does not negate, or should not obscure, the overwhelming desire of the ordinary man and woman to proceed on the road of inclusion. Whichever way it is looked at, a diverse nation stands to gain more when all feel that their voices are heard, their opinions and inputs valued, their choice of representatives respected, and their taxes invested in them, irrespective of political or apolitical interests.
It need not be forgotten amidst the present court rulings and conversations about the constitution and its amendments, from which Article 13 and the presidential term limit flowed, were the result of the people’s involvement. These amendments were conceptualised and developed across the political divide and inclusive of the apolitical, done in congenial and consensual atmosphere, that not only saw large participation but also trust.
Guyanese were led to believe by their political leadership, on both sides of the aisle, that a person can serve not more than two terms as president, yet today the society is split, by the machinations of a few with scurrilous political agendas, on a matter that was settled more than a decade ago by unanimous national and parliamentary support.
Few, if any, relish living in a nation constantly racked by divisions, conflicts, and acrimony, under the fear that the law will protect some and not all, and all are not subject to the same law. This is not a healthy relationship in building social cohesion and as the prime minister so reminded we, the people, are moulders of our destiny. It is a destiny worthwhile moulding, where all will live in peace and harmony.
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