THE need to build political trust between the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and the opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-led A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) is not automatic, and cannot be forced if Guyana is to move forward in peace and unity, thereby building ethnic and socioeconomic inclusivity.
Recently, political commentators David Hinds, Vincent Alexander and Henry Jeffrey, alongside APNU+AFC Parliamentarian David Patterson had a very interesting discourse on the subject of race and elections in Guyana, as well its governance systems. A number of appalling half-truths, one-sided statements, allegations and misinformed views were just thrown out into the public domain for consumption.
This “mighty” group of men, who are all scholars in their own right in various fields, seem not to understand, what many Guyanese understood by trial and error, that there be mutual respect, a build-up system of trust, good faith and political cooperation if any system is going to work in Guyana.
The problem with our politics is that “trust” does not exist genuinely in our relations. President Bharrat Jagdeo recognised this, and tried vigorously to change the political perception when he wrote the paper, “Towards greater inclusive governance in Guyana: Building Trust to Achieve Genuine Political Cooperation”, which was made public in 2003. He accomplished several constitutional reform changes in the 2000s, but they were not enough, as persons found a way to continue the ethnic mistrust, ingenuity and political savagery that we see taking place in society.
Fast-forward to the Donald Ramotar presidency. Despite his attempts at bridging the divide politically, the opposition tried at every turn to make ‘success’ out of every little misgiving in government. And finally they succeeded when his government came to a rough and premature end in 2015.
But it was David Granger’s administration that took home the pie for not doing “anything” much to build on inclusivity governance which it had promised. Remember, it was Granger who piloted his brand of good governance with inclusivity. He had talked up having a mechanism that would eventually achieve shared governance. He promised a process of constitutional reform that would manage to see civil society and all stakeholders working together.
That didn’t happen, because he got comfortable with his laissez-faire attitude. Granger had succeeded as the first president who had all power, including military force, which he kept a tight hold on, and did nothing “genuine”. Soon, this administration forgot the people it had been mandated to serve. It was hit by scandal after scandal, and Granger fiddled with his thumbs while Rome burned. This period saw huge amounts spent on CoIs and investigations and plans than actually getting the work done. Then the then Opposition PPP was proving what effective and efficient stance was in Parliament, as they took wind of the mood of country and people, bringing down his government by way of a no-confidence vote.
So, the lack of trust and good faith has to be addressed alongside the racial insecurities of the people, so that you can have a process of genuine constitutional reform started. These are problems which must be addressed now, if the system of governance is to be truly transformed.
Trust cannot, therefore, be seen as automatic or forced, but there must be small steps designed to purge the problem. President Irfaan Ali, given the examples of his predecessor, cannot be faulted for working with the groups in society that recognise his government’s legitimacy, with or without a court case.
He is the President, and does not see it as good to be begging the opposition to be part of major undertakings in this country. The tail must never wag the dog; and that is what this opposition wants. It can continue to behave like this, the President must continue to build trust in society, regardless. It must be noted that the President has said he is open to talking with the opposition, as long as there is legitimate recognition.
But if this is done, and the opposition comes to the table, you will slowly see “trust and building good faith” blossoming. But the opposition won’t give the President the chance to govern in an atmosphere where there is peace, trust and civility.
So, the quartet, comprising of mainly opposition personalities, will continue to peddle and raise these very interesting issues, because they benefit their constituents. But no one is fooled by these PR machinations and stunts. We know that the opposition is trying hard to get our confidence and trust; they will never get it again by telling half-baked stories and tales through men like the quartet. This is not them sordidly changing the tale; this is them seeking to change facts and history.
The thing that is wrong is that these individuals can’t seem to see that they are part of the problem, if they don’t seek to offer solutions that will be accepted, but are comfortable driving fear and insecurity in the society.
In the words of Janet Jagan, “The elections are over,” and it is time to build. Building Guyana will take all of our collective efforts, but it must be rooted in the notion of trust.