Infantile Behaviour

SHAKING hands is an old tradition; it is believed to have started since pre-historic times as a demonstration of peaceful intent. It is a symbolic gesture of good faith and respect, especially on the part of the initiator of that handshake.

Why then would any rational person refuse to shake hands with someone who extended a hand to him or her? The matter becomes all the more difficult to comprehend when that person is someone of prominence and occupies the highest political office in the land; that of the Executive Presidency of Guyana.

Regardless of what one may think or feel of the President of Guyana, any refusal to shake the hand of someone of the stature of an Executive President can be regarded, at best, as infantile, disrespectful and in bad taste.

This is not the first time Leader of the Opposition Aubrey Norton has refused to shake hands with President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali. On the first occasion, at an event held by the British High Commission, Mr. Norton claimed that President Ali ‘bullied’ him into a handshake, which he considered ‘offensive’. More recently, at an Emancipation Day activity in New Amsterdam, the Opposition Leader again refused to shake hands with President Ali.

President Ali, for his part, had displayed statesmanship and magnanimity, and made it clear that he would continue to extend a hand of friendship to every Guyanese. According to the President, “I will continue to put my hands out in friendship to every single Guyanese, whether they want to shake my hands or not. I will leave the door open to everyone who wants to join in this mission of bringing us together; the door is wide open. But I will not stand by the door and wait for those who do not want to come.”

This is, indeed, noble thinking on the part of President Ali, and it speaks volumes about his personality, character and leadership style, which is warm and people-oriented. Since becoming President two years ago, Dr. Ali has demonstrated a remarkable ability to, as it were, ‘ground’ with the people, both in good times and in bad times.

He has displayed an extraordinary disposition to connect with people from all across the political, ethnic and religious spectrum. His approach to governance has been well received by Guyanese at home and abroad, many of whom are high in praise for his hard work, and unflinching loyalty and commitment to the cause of Guyana and the region.

But not the Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton. Or, at least, so it seems from his attitude towards the President and the PPP/C administration. His behaviour is all the more unbecoming in light of the solemnity of the occasion on which he chose to do so, namely, the anniversary of the emancipation from slavery. One would have thought that he would have used the occasion to demonstrate some amount of political brinkmanship, and an ability to rise above the fray, but that, apparently, was expecting too much from him.

Truth be told, it is Mr. Norton and the APNU+AFC that are in the wrong after having failed to recognise the legitimacy of the PPP/C which won the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections in verifiable free and fair elections. Mr. Norton continues to spread a false narrative of his party being ‘cheated’ out of office, and of the PPP/C being an ‘installed’ regime. An apology from the APNU+AFC is certainly in order, but Mr. Norton seems to be embarking on a ‘wrong and strong’ attitude, with a view to bullying his way to power.

Such an approach to politics has no place in a modern, democratic and law-governed society. So far, Mr. Norton has displayed that he lacks an understanding of the dynamics of competitive politics. His leadership style is viewed by a significant number of Guyanese as crude and abrasive, which does not augur well for a politically stable and cohesive society.

President Ali, on the other hand, is coming across as someone who is open to dialogue and fresh thinking on the way forward. His ‘One Guyana’ vision is picking up momentum, as new and exciting opportunities beckon.

It is not too late for the political opposition to change course and embrace a new and enlightened approach to politics and governance in Guyana. This year’s Emancipation celebrations could be that catalyst for change, provided that the main opposition party displays the political will to do so.


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