Conversations on national unity
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ANY society desirous of being united — operating as a single entity or whole — has to be grounded and guided by universally acceptable principles. In the structuring of organisations, domestic and international, the unification and success of the entity is premised on its declarations, conventions, charters and rules.In a country what welds the society to function as a single entity, its constitution and laws should emerge out of the indigenous cultural and political reality and aspirations of its people. To pursue any objective at a societal level requires an atmosphere that lends to cordiality and respect for frank, honest and open conversations as equals.

In this environment, before anything can be agreed upon, or even deemed worthy of consideration, it first has to be expressed implicitly or explicitly. Allowing for expression creates needed space for germination of ideas, sharing of knowledge, and consensus-building. Where a nation sees wisdom in Khalil Gibran’s counsel that people be themselves; speak their truth clearly; listen to others, including the dull and the ignorant who, too, have their story; this creates a space where none is constrained by inhibitions, and all are given the opportunity to be heard.

Ours is a diverse society whose modern foundation rests on the unitary principle of One People, One Nation, One Destiny; and having come out of pleasant and not-so-pleasant historical experiences, conversations may be more complex. Yet these conversations must be had and be all-encompassing.

Conversations have to include what presently exists. In the examination of what exists, the fault lines, if any, have to be included. Otherwise, the nation risks re-inventing the wheel or ignoring aspects of unity that, were they applied, advancement would have been inevitable. Evidence-based conversations, clear and well defined concepts which can avoid bottleneck, frustration, hopelessness and rancor, are worthwhile considerations.

Concepts such as power-sharing, shared-governance, government of national unity, executive power sharing, rotating the presidency, and inclusionary democracy beg clarification and explanations. In so doing, attention ought to be paid that diverse individuals and groups not only require understanding, but also assurance that the political system would ensure equality and accountability. Clear definition helps to inform the society as to what its members are being asked to commit to, and their function and responsibility in the process.

Presently, the only concept with some clarity in the nation’s political lexicon is inclusionary democracy. In Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution, which came out of constitutional reform, heralds that, “The principal objective of the political 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.”

As the nation awaits definition of the other concepts, government has to function. What the nation is currently aware of is that there are three tiers of government: National, Region and Local. What they are not very clear on is how these work, what is in it for the individual or group, and their role outside of voting. This paucity of knowledge is a hazard to development. Every effort therefore has to be made to ensure citizens benefit through participation and involvement in the decision-making processes in these tiers. Knowledge brings about understanding, and understanding can lead to support and involvement, which are critical components of development. Starting points to be addressing are inclusionary democracy, its spirit and intent, and the structures needed to be put in place to achieve it. This includes its application in the three tiers of government, which includes the legislature. Whatever form of government is being pursued, or planned to be pursued, it augurs well when citizens feel they have a stake in it, and can derive the benefit(s) from it. Conversations absent of these foci will stymie the greatest of intent.

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