IN February this year, President Dr Irfaan Ali said ‘there was no greater moment for us to stand as one,’ as he lobbied for national unity and political cohesion, as a dawn of a new era was scheduled to be ushered in, which would undoubtedly see the nation’s growth and development and transformation of the lives of Guyanese.
Dr Ali wanted to see “maturity” in politics and a sense of nationalistic pride in being Guyanese at the end of the day. He is quoted as saying that “there has never been a greater moment when we, as Guyanese, need to stand as one to secure the benefits of our natural resources and to protect our sovereignty – the right to make decisions in our national interest – and our territorial integrity… Stop being defined by race. Stop being defined by politics. Start being defined by our one nationality and by our common love for our one country.
Let us lift it up together and, by doing so, let us lift up each other and ourselves as ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny.”
President Ali reasoned at the time that “We are at a decisive moment in our history, with a greater opportunity than previous Parliaments to make our country a better place than it has ever been. This is the honour and the challenge that time and events have laid at our door. We must – each of us – live up to it. The people of Guyana expect us to not spend our time squabbling and bickering. They want us to find common ground on which we can build a nation in which they are safe and their children’s future is secure.”
He then mentioned the ‘One Guyana Commission’ policy and the renewed work that would be done on the Ethnic Relations Commission to make it more independent and sound, following the tensions which flared and conspiracies which surrounded the racial fibre of this country in the lead-up to, during, and after the 2020 elections.
The President’s charge is still very relevant, timely and appropriate today.
As we celebrate Guyana’s 55th Independence Anniversary, there is an urgent need for the country to take ‘stock’ of its national growth and developmental agenda if it is to truly move forward as a nation under the theme, “One people, one nation, and one destiny.”
Guyana, at this important hallmark, can ill-afford not to take advantage of the ripe, boundless and promising benefits that are waiting to be harnessed in the fields of newer and cleaner energy.
That aside, the traditional economy mixed with the now emerging oil and gas sector, offers Guyana a way to truly modernise its development in a sustainable and responsible manner at a rapid pace.
Taking “stock” too, means that years after Guyana attained independence in 1966 and gained the status of a republic in 1970, we must be in a position to assess the socio-economic needs of our people and the challenges faced in responding to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic which is a crisis, in and of itself, that is engulfing the world.
This requires the need for strong, sober-minded and non-partisan political leadership that truly encapsulates the ‘Guyana first’ policy. President Irfaan Ali seems determined to offer Guyanese this type of leadership and statesmanship that we so badly need.
The truth is, the opposition is still, even now, covertly practising its policies of obstruction, incitement, divide and conquer, and sabotage. When it is caught telling barefaced lies about certain things and projects, it buckles under the pressure and starts a new storm in the tea cup to persuade us to focus our attention on them and what they are saying. Each time, we as Guyanese do, we lose focus of developmental projects and good that the government has done for us in nine months.
The cash grant initiative, the recent inoculation/vaccine drive and the GOAL project are examples of the opposition politicians not putting Guyanese first. They should be part and parcel of the initiative by sending and encouraging their constituencies to take part in them, while holding the government accountable where and when needs be. This constant bad-mouthing of the projects at home and abroad will not help the Guyanese at home to deal with the COVID-19 crisis that is engaging them at the moment, or to get equitable access to affordable post-secondary education freely in a COVID world.
Similarly, not supporting or participating in the dialogue on constitutional or electoral reform will not make Guyana a better place in terms of good governance, transparency and accountability. We must accept the help that is being offered if it is in line with our goals and aspirations as a country. We must participate through consultation in whatever form it may take.
We must never close the door or use childish and puerile politics that can hold up development or progress because it is not a political grouping that we like and they would get the credit for rolling out the reforms.
Politicians in general must learn the art of agreement and compromise. Their arguments should be about change – how could this be done differently and we work towards our goals. We must strive for non-violent resolutions and non-confrontational outcomes that will respect law and order, as opposed to sensationalising and politicising simple issues.
Finally, the President’s message as we turn 55 is a reminder of the dark times that Guyana traversed with bickering and political conspiracies replacing truth, facts and the actual situations on the ground. Guyana needs leadership like President Ali’s style to make it well into the development age.