Op-Ed | A new era of political civility

Imran Khan

By Imran Khan

A RECEPTION was held on June 15 at the official residence of Cuban Ambassador to Guyana in honour of the visit of Cuba’s Vice Foreign Minister, Rogelio Sierra Diaz.

In attendance among others, were Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and a number of PPP members, including former President Donald Ramotar, Clement Rohee, Indra Chandarpal, and party stalwart and GAWU leader Komal Chand.

Judging from photographs taken at the reception and reports received, the prime minister engaged and was convivial, as is his usual self, with his former colleagues. That was reciprocated by the PPP’s party stalwarts, whose association with him goes back decades. It was heartwarming to see that while politicians might view themselves on opposite sides, they still find time for dialogue, civil discourse and the occasional friendly banter.

Notably absent from that and several other receptions, including the Queen’s birthday party at the British Ambassador’s residence, was Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who seems to have an aversion to such events, purportedly looking down on the cocktail circuit and its small talk. He would want us to believe, as he told the media on Tuesday last, that he was bored with ceremonial functions, even when he was President.

There may be a grain of truth in that, although Mr. Jagdeo as President certainly did do his fair share of schmoozing at such events which the then leader of the opposition invariably attended, no matter the political temperature at the time. Perhaps they saw that such appearances are not in fact trivial, but send powerful messages to the wider population that despite differences, politeness towards, and acknowledgement of, our fellow Guyanese are important.

Sadly, Mr. Jagdeo’s perpetually combative posture is often one of outright disdain and even smacks of personal animosity towards his political opponents and his critics. He seems unable to have a calm discussion on any subject without it making him bilious or resorting to personal insults. That was evident in his attitude towards reporters whom he had described as “carrion crows” and “vultures” who should all be “thrown into jail”.

Reporters and those many who love them, have long memories. That is why there is spontaneous celebration on social media over the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice on Tuesday that stops Mr. Jagdeo from running for a third term. His power has been considerably diminished by the fact that he now has no future as a presidential contender. He cannot even hope to be prime minister or a vice-president. He would however mount a rearguard campaign to control Jagan’s party, and to use clout to become the king-maker behind the throne. He would hijack the post of general-secretary and also hold down the seat in Parliament as leader of the opposition, the latter to access the $20million package for the Office of the Opposition Leader.

The decision by the CCJ has basically shown him the political exit door. He could, as he told the media, retire to his hammock and read all the fiction he has been collecting, but could not find time to read. The sad story is that “Cedric Richardson”, a lowly resident of West Ruimveldt, has invested millions of dollars in three courts to get his Mr. Jagdeo to run again, when all the gentleman wanted to do was to find time for fiction!

While no one wishes to interfere in the internal politics of the PPP, it is hoped that at some point in the near future there would emerge a new leader of the opposition. And among the qualities we hope he or she would embody is simple civility. This would hopefully set a new tone for the country and could also improve relations between the President and the leader of the opposition, which has clearly lacked chemistry and any kind of a working cooperation over the past three years. The CCJ ruling has reviewed constitutional guarantees for Guyana to continue as a viable and united sovereign democratic society.
A stop has to be put to the constant whining and slandering that pass off as “opposition”. We need to usher forth a new era of civility and cooperation, and for Guyana to place on its agenda the goals of national unity and social cohesion.