Article 13 needs to remain in the realm of fact to be taken seriously

Dear Editor,

WE are a remarkably free country when it comes to the public expression of opinions by small groups of people who set themselves up to speak with political authority, while representing no one in particular and are given a platform in our national newspapers.

One such group defines itself as “Article 13,” who take their name from an article in our Constitution which provides “for the participation of citizens in the management and decision- making processes of the State.”

This group has never, as far as I know, publicly declared their membership, nor have they named a leader or an executive, preferring, it seems, to remain anonymous, yet they presume to speak with political authority on behalf of “Civil Society.”

In fact, I know some of them and regard them with some respect as individuals and I know that as individuals they played an active and admirable part in opposing the attempt by the David Granger-led government to rig the results of the last elections.

The question which I ask is, how should a small group without any evidence of significant popular support be taken seriously, using an article of our Constitution to give them the right to pronounce upon the political performance of the elected government of the day and the major opposition?

It seems that the Editor of the Stabroek News, at least, takes them seriously enough to continuously publish what they say, not as a letter to the Editor, but as a legitimate article of news in the columns of the newspaper.

In Wednesday’s (3rd August) Stabroek News, this group was highly critical of the performance of the government, while dismissing the APNU+AFC opposition as “lacklustre” and having little or no credibility.

They criticise the government as having done little to advance “democracy, good governance, the rule of law and the country’s interest” without presenting a scintilla of evidence to justify such a harsh criticism.

That the members of this group, whom I know to be serious people and, I believe, well-intentioned, should accuse our government of having done little, for instance, to advance the country’s interest, which is patently and obviously and demonstratively untrue, is careless, irresponsible and thoughtless.

This government inherited an economy which was bankrupt from a government which held on to office illegally for many months. The economy is now, within two years of the government in office, in good shape, but, like every other economy in the world, is under severe threat from the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. There are massive shortages of food, for instance, across Africa and in parts of the Middle East, but not so here. The escalation in prices is no fault of the government. Considerable tax relief to help reduce the rising cost of living has been granted by the government, including the removal of VAT on essential food items.

President Mohamed Irfaan Ali has shown remarkable initiative in driving collaboration with CARICOM and, in particular, Barbados, in hosting the Agriculture Expos and Exhibition attended and supported by many of the CARICOM heads of government.

Agro-processing facilities have been introduced in a number of regions, a dairy milk production plant is about to be established; mutton production hugely enhanced by the partnership with Barbados for blackbelly sheep-rearing in Guyana, to cite a few examples of government’s efforts to ensure food security for our country.

To criticise the government for not meeting its constitutional obligations is unfair and unreasonable when the government is faced with a totally unapproachable opposition refusing consultation and intent on destabilising the country by foul means if permitted, yet, the Integrity, the Police, Judicial and Public Procurement Commissions have been appointed.

To criticise the Local Content Bill 2021, though far from perfect and requiring modification in ongoing collaboration with the private sector, as “bungled” and “in disarray” is a gross exaggeration. To blame the government for the failure of GECOM, an independent body, for not having yet scheduled Local Government Elections, is patently unfair and wrong.

So, if the Article 13 group, however small and unimportant they may be, wish to be taken seriously and play a decisive role in the “decision-making processes of the State,” they need to drop the hyperbole and remain within the realm of fact.

Yours sincerely,

Kit Nascimento

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