Engaging civil society
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RRECOGNISING that solutions to the myriad of problems and challenges that inevitably arise as a society develops and advances emanate out of an entire nation, it is laudable that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is reaching out in a real way to civic society, thereby ensuring every Guyanese could play a role in national development. The PPP, this historic political socioeconomic movement, stands out as one of the only entrenched political forces in the world that embraces civic society as its structural working partner. This unique politics-civic alignment of the party that now forms the Guyana Government, the PPP/C, allows for a national leadership platform that is inclusive, all-embracing, and considerate of every facet of national life. Every Guyanese has an opportunity to play a role in national development. Such a relationship must be nurtured, cultivated with responsibility, professional ethics, and deep consideration for the national good.
Just as Government never abuses its political lordship over the civic component in its rank and in Parliament, always treating everybody with equal standing, civic leaders across the society must exercise responsible leadership ethics in playing their role. This usually happens, as with the Private Sector’s affinity with the PPP/C, and the intimate working relationship between the two. However, some sections of Guyana embark on irresponsible nastiness, especially some sections of the private media, always seeking to poke holes in the confidence of citizens to carry on the business of national development. They criticise, find fault, and point fingers, with little regard to their role as responsible leaders of society who could do much more to engineer a Guyana of robust togetherness and positive citizen engagement. They seem bent on causing mischief.

One recognises the role of critical thinking as a necessary facet of development. However, critical verbiage that is based on unfounded suspicion, and downright vindictiveness cannot play a positive role in society. Citizens must resolve to build a national culture of respectful national discourse, sound debate, and intelligent interaction.
For example, the custom of some folks to scream unfounded accusations high and low that Government is signing away oil rights to the international oil companies cannot be a good thing. In constantly berating Government for its role in signing investment deals, harping always that corruption is everywhere, these shallow screamers could scare away investment opportunities. Yes, there must be a watchdog media role, but it must be based on professional ethics, fairness, balance of information shared with the public, both sides always consulted, and respect for facts, as against emotive suspicions, innuendos, and false feelings.

If Guyana is to command the respect of the global village as a world-class society, these little things need cleaning up. So much effort goes into engaging Guyanese from all walks of life within the leadership structure of the country, through the political-civic partnership, through real democracy and a robust media environment, through Government outreach into communities everywhere, through free and fair elections, and through an open forum on Social Media, where anybody could directly interact with Government Ministers, that it is puzzling to see some people resort to cheap, emotive negativity in engaging the public. Were one to bother with the negativity, one would think Government is deliberately selling all Guyana’s oil to foreigners. It is irrational and ridiculous, yet, every day, such absurdity is peddled on the streets of this nation.

Every Guyanese has to understand what it takes to fine-tune and refine and define the social space of this land, so that this country thrives in an environment of positive energy.
Along with the PPP/C’s partnership, on the political front, with civic society, Guyana also demonstrates its inner strength and resolve to, with determination, operate a functional democracy, thereby maintaining a national media pool where the public easily expresses itself through letters to the newspapers and digital media, and through TV and radio programmes. Guyana cultivates a culture and embedded system of strong citizen engagement in how the society develops and grows. Government ministers meeting through regular outreach with citizens across the country adds to this structure of a strong relationship between citizens and political leaders. Indeed, Guyana enjoys the blessing of, in reality, having a people’s government. And so the onus is on the people who venture out to play a role, to take stock of what role they choose to play; positive or negative.

One notes that the main Opposition Party, the People’s National Congress (PNC) copied the concept of linking its political organisation with civic society, when it formed its Reform arm. However, that effort has since failed, and the PNC is back to being a mere political entity, with no civic component. When the PNC led the Coalition Government, Guyanese became frustrated with the utter lack of engagement between the Coalition Government and citizens, with shockingly few media conferences, an arrogant pride from Coalition officials towards ordinary citizens, and draconian austerity measures against vulnerable citizens that put untold pressure on senior citizens, the poor, and the unemployed. The Coalition appointed only its political stalwarts to Government positions, as opposed to the PPP/C’s habit of selecting a member of civic society to serve as Prime Minister, along with other ministers from the Civic pool.
So, Guyanese cannot take for granted that this alignment of the PPP/C, between the nation’s most trusted historical socioeconomic political movement, the PPP, and civic society, is a light thing. It is, profoundly, a blessing to the nation. And it must never be taken for granted.

Therefore, all of civic society would want to play a positive, engaging, responsible and professional role in building the social environment under which this country cultivates Guyanese to build for tomorrow. Both Government and civic society must reach out to each other in good faith, sound dialogue and debate, and responsible respect for each other. Starting with suspicion that one side is out to get the other, as the Coalition did with accusing the Private Sector of skulduggery at every turn, and in how some sections of the private media, and some subgroup leaders shout irrational, irresponsible, and unfounded accusations against Government and the international oil companies, would damage the good intent of the PPP/C in forming this admirable alignment between the political front and civic society. Guyana could set a golden standard for the world as to how politics and civic society interact and align. That takes intentional nationwide cultivation of a spirit of camaraderie, trust, and Guyanese believing in each other.

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