It is the people through a referendum who should decide whether there should be shared governance or not

Dear Editor,
I read the two letters written by two members of the ACDA, Messrs Tacuma Ogunseye (‘The people’s support for shared governance is of paramount importance if it is to succeed, January 5) and Eric Phillips (‘ACDA believes shared governance can only flow from constitutional reform that has public input,’ SN January 12), and while it is not possible to deal with their individual points, I would have to say, from the general tenor of their letters, we have a lot more in common than what may divide us.

From the captions of their letters it is obvious we share the fundamental thinking that says shared governance has to be people, not politically, oriented.
That said, one of the painful realities about trying to make shared governance work in Guyana is that no one knows whether it will adequately address the concerns of the people or will be abused by political parties that share in governance, as obtained under the PNC and PPP governments with the current Westminster system. The problem is not so much with the system, per se, but with the people running it!

Constituents in Guyana do not vote on issues, but along ethnic lines, so that the party that wins assumes it has a mandate to govern as it wishes since its support base votes race and not issues. Ethnic voting deprives the electorate, including constituents that support the winning party, from holding the ruling party accountable and responsible for failing to achieve specific goals or targets, since the ruling party can quickly point out that the election was all about ‘us or them’ (ethnic security) and not about social or economic security issues.

So, when we talk about shared governance in Guyana, we have to take into consideration that it is being touted as a result of a racially polarizing crisis that has its genesis in a political culture nurtured for over fifty years by the PPP and PNC − the elephant and rhinoceros sucking up all the oxygen and taking up all the space in the room. To remain politically relevant for over 50 years required that they prey on the ethnic fears and insecurities of their respective support bases, and the only way they will ever come together in a shared governance concept is if they believe they are about to become politically extinct by virtue of a third political force emerging on the landscape and exposing the shallowness of their race-based political debauchery.

Only by understanding where the crisis was born will we understand how the crisis must be overcome, and to overcome this crisis requires we all overcome the PPP and PNC by continually exposing them in Guyana as the actual sources of the crisis we face. Unless we can expose the PPP and PNC for the pair of political farces they are, they will continue to have the upper hand on the public discussion on shared governance with the objective of ensuring they can readily and easily take control of the discussion and the process in the event they decide to adopt the concept. This is their only way of ensuring they still dictate the political process, even if there is shared governance.

If the PPP and PNC are not successfully exposed as the shared source of the crisis and deprived of the opportunity to seize control of the shared governance discussion and process, then the lone alternative is to have the PPP and PNC ask the people, via a national referendum, whether they want the PPP and PNC to come together and form a single government. The people, especially Indians and Blacks, do have some amount of tension and suspicion among themselves because of the political culture, but they do not engage in the type of rabid rhetoric or risky remonstrations we have seen displayed occasionally by the PPP and PNC. So the problem is not with the people, it is with the political leaders!

To me, the people prefer a type of political leadership, whether Indian, Black or otherwise, that can unite them and lead them to into their potential given the vast untapped resources of our country.

Unfortunately, since the PPP and PNC pander to race for support and votes, neither party can galvanize or harness the collective energies and abilities of the people to this end, because whichever wins elections must reward constituents with favours and rewards. Ethnic voting, therefore, demands that favours and rewards be given to ethnic supporters, and this creates a perception of marginalization and discrimination. It obtained under the PNC government and it obtains under this PPP government.

If, by 2011, the people are of the firm opinion that there is no viable alternative to the PPP and the PNC, and they prefer that the two parties work as one, then such a government will have to dole out jobs and contracts and other favours on the basis of merit, and the people will rally around such a government to help achieve national goals, for which the people and the government will share the honours. In other words, shared governance has to come from the people, not the politicians, or else what we have seen since the late fifties will continue indefinitely.
But while a shared governance concept that caters to all the people and gives the power back to the people is an ideal of proponents today, a realistic cursory analysis of the political climate reveals that the PPP and PNC remain bent on doing their own thing. They have been doing their own thing in power for the past sixteen and 28 years and 16 years, respectively, and they did not produce anything lasting for the people.

Vaunted talks about inclusive governance, shared governance, engaging civil society stakeholders and even attaching ‘Civic’
to the PPP and ‘Reform’ to the PNC, turned out to be just empty symbols; the real power rests with the leaders of the parties who have their own agendas.
Surprisingly, Guyanese are much smarter than the politicians give them credit for, because they know the PPP and PNC are not about the people, so they do what the PPP and PNC ask them to do on election day, then they resume finding ways to survive the carnivorous beasts of the political jungle dominated by the PPP and PNC. Fortunately, some Guyanese are slowly waking up and these are the wise (different from smart) ones who are leading the way in exposing to other frustrated and angry Guyanese the PPP and PNC’s deceitfulness of preying on the people’s ethnic fears and insecurities.

As a Guyanese who was around when we achieved Independence in 1966, I believe I speak for many when I say we are more disillusioned now about our proper place in the global village and the type of future we are facing as a people and nation.

But while that has to be an indictment against both the PPP and PNC, we, the people, must also share some responsibility for our plight because we allowed ourselves to be suckered into the PPP and PNC’s game or we did nothing to stop it.

It should make us all feel ashamed and yearn to embrace an attitudinal change. And even if the two political behemoths know no shame, hence no inclination to genuine change, then the only alternative is for the people to continue to wake up and make change happen for themselves and their posterity!
If Guyanese at home want shared governance, then let them make that choice via a referendum. This way they can’t pin blame anymore on the PPP and PNC if their circumstances do not change or get worse.
Yours faithfully,
Emile Mervin

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