ONE would expect that the Opposition Coalition, especially its main driver, the People’s National Congress (PNC), would welcome the reaching out of President Irfaan Ali to all former Heads of State to engage in conversation on the future of this promising nation. Alas, it is not to be, as Brigadier David Granger refused to show up for the presidential meeting. To their credit, former Presidents Samuel Hinds, Bharrat Jagdeo, and Donald Ramotar congregated at the round table with President Ali, and agreed to form a national elders’ Think Tank that meets quarterly to brainstorm and mind-map crucial strategies for security, electoral reform, constitutional reform, climate change, and other developmental issues.
Citizens would be watching the actions of Brigadier Granger and the PNC, which he is leader of, and the Coalition, to see how genuinely sincere and authentic are opposition leaders in achieving unity, togetherness, and cooperation as Guyana ramps up its socioeconomic development. One is nonplussed and speechless at the disappointing no-show of Brigadier Granger. If this is the sort of leadership he wants the other opposition leaders to emulate, Guyanese would be questioning how wise an elder statesman he is, and how committed is he to national unity, cooperation, and contributing positive, proactive, progressive ideas and views to the development process.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) demonstrates, with emphatic confidence, its commitment to include citizens of every political persuasion in the process of developing this nation. The party appointed members of the small Opposition parties as members of Boards at State organisations and at positions within ministries, and enrolled leader of the Amerindian-aligned Liberty and Justice Party, Lenox Shuman, as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, and continues to reach out to Guyanese everywhere to partner with the Government in this exciting phase of the country’s history.
President Ali’s leadership in this magnanimous engagement with civic society causes Guyanese to feel engaged and valuable in being able to have a voice at the highest level of State. This is real democracy at work; it is in this spirit that Government reached out to Brigadier Granger. Alas, the former President decided he would play small; be myopic, and ignore overtures of cooperation, unity, and togetherness. Worst of all, Brigadier Granger refused to contribute his views and ideas to the process of national development. One is hard- pressed to find good sense in this non-engagement policy of the Opposition.
The Opposition cannot, in good faith, complain about any action of this Government, if they adapt this approach of non-engagement.
Thankfully, the PPP/C Government embodies a cadre of sensible, thinking, patriotic leaders who so care about this country that they would selflessly give of their time, experience, and ideas in the cause of national development. All Guyanese applaud Bharrat Jagdeo, Samuel Hinds and Donald Ramotar for meeting with President Ali, and committing to quarterly meetings. Every Guyanese would be inspired and happy to see this initiative, and to know that this group is working in the interest of Guyana, moving forward.
Much is on the table for them to lend their wisdom to, with electoral reform and constitutional reform having far-reaching and profound impact on future generations. It is also laudable that the Heads of State placed security on the agenda. Not only does Guyana need to clean up the streets of Georgetown from pickpockets and petty thieves and armed robbers, but even at the national level, as development ramps up and wealth increases, the State needs to implement a thorough Intelligence Service. An Intelligence Service would go a long way in preventing and dealing with organised crime, potential crimes against the State such as treason, and corruption within the public and private sectors.
The Guyana Police Force lacks the track record to be handed this important task, to gather intelligence and information regarding white collar crimes. Guyana cannot become a global standout success without taking into consideration the potential of attracting criminals from the global underworld. Even locally, some elements may fancy their chances to operate criminal undertakings that would perpetuate violence and damage to the social fabric. As seen in developed societies, once wealth increases in a society, ambitious criminals fancy their chances to try for illicit gain. With increased flow of wealth, Guyana must implement sound, professional, foolproof national systems to guard against corruption, unpatriotic excursions such as treason and threats against Government and the State, and organised criminal gangs. This would even mean securing the once porous borders with neighbouring countries and South America from criminals and people of the underworld entering Guyana illegally.
The complexity of governing this nation as it becomes a global success story will eventually show up with stark reality. And the Opposition seems clueless of the new horizon the country is entering into. So, it is admirable that President Ali recognises the value of accessing the experience and wisdom of past Presidents, and to establish a formal national conversation with them. In a politically polarising environment where the leader of the main Opposition party and the Coalition Opposition in Parliament refuses to engage in national dialogue, every effort must be made to nip potential political angst in the bud. How does one deal with a non-cooperating political force that only sees hatred, enmity, and maybe even jealousy and envy?
This past week, social media saw a trending post of a former Minister, now an Opposition Member of Parliament, commenting that Guyana needs civil unrest. Such draconian irresponsibility and hatred must be dealt with, with emphatic decisiveness. Also, a lawyer came out with social media posts that could easily incite racial tensions, with accusations that police harassed a family because of race. Such forces do Guyana no good.
This is why this Presidential confab is so important. It is a crucial platform that forms a nucleus where solutions and thought leadership could flow out into the society, for a national confab of former Heads of State would be able to objectively pronounce on even sensitive issues, with a national voice of united elderly wisdom. The entire Guyana hopes that the PNC, the Coalition, and Brigadier Granger make sober-minded decisions when it comes to such weighty matters as engaging in a national voice of reason, elderly wisdom, and presidential experience.