Those who continue to advocate the need for shared governance − the PNCR and its associates − as a panacea to the problems in Guyana are not being candid. Guyana’s current governance practice remains one of the most progressive in the Caribbean and the world. The PPP/C administration has pursued constitutional changes since 1997 to advance the process of inclusiveness in Guyana.
The climate of shared governance relies heavily on trust which is defined as “a firm reliance on the integrity, ability or character of a person or thing,” in this case the principals and their political parties. It is unfortunate but not unusual for Ms Lurlene Nestor, whose letter in the Stabroek News criticised President Jagdeo’s comment on the need for trust to pursue political cooperation, to miss the salient points on this issue. However, while I expect Ms Nestor to take a slanted position in support of her party, Stabroek News’s ‘coincidental’ support for every opposition stance is too glaring (see last Sunday’s editorial). I will on another occasion deal with this matter separately.
That apart, President Jagdeo was on the ball when he said that we were beginning to see the blossoming of political cooperation when factions within the PNCR began to vehemently criticize Robert Corbin and the eventual threat to his leadership surfaced. There is a strong suspicion that those factions within the PNCR which pressured Mr Corbin away from attempts at meaningful political cooperation preferred the confrontational approach to solving Guyana’s problems.
The PNCR in propagating its case for shared governance is unambiguous about its fixation over power which explains its rigging of elections prior to 1992 in Guyana.
Constitutional reform has so far given greater inclusiveness to the opposition in Guyana and these changes are no insignificant advancement, contrary to what they would want us to believe. The amendments provided for reducing the powers of the President, a veto on the appointment of the Chancellor and Chief Justice, strengthening the financial independence of the judiciary and Auditor-General, expanding human rights, the establishment of parliamentary sectoral committees to examine and review government policy in the social, economic, foreign policy and natural resources sectors and commissions on the Rights of the Child, Gender Rights and Indigenous People.
While it would not be possible to go through all these reforms in this letter there are many more that all represent a genuine effort by the PPP/C administration towards inclusiveness. The Opposition Leader and representatives are assigned key roles in effecting these constitutional functions such as sitting as chair and vice-chair on parliamentary committees. For example, the Public Accounts Committee is chaired by PNCR Member of Parliament Volda Lawrence.
And I am not suggesting this might be the end-it-all of the exploration of inclusiveness, but we need to understand that establishing systems, mechanisms, whatever you like, without people who are committed, nothing will ever move forward.
Successive PPP/C administrations since 1992 have advanced inclusiveness to accommodate the greater involvement of the opposition parties and civil society. Unfortunately, these mechanisms have either been largely untapped or under-utilised by the primary beneficiaries. The PNCR has lost out on so many opportunities because of its counter-productive behaviour, an long absence from Parliament and its own party politics of infighting.
Let us not pretend that shared governance to the extent that the PNCR’s hopes in a society like Guyana would succeed; this is because of the intricate tapestry of rules and relationships, practice and policy. Any experiment of this kind is bound to take us backward with increased bureaucracy and unbearable puerility daunting the prospects of good governance.
This issue is not simple, as any decision on shared governance at the level proposed by the PNCR outside the existing model of inclusiveness has got to come from the electorate, the people themselves.
Shared governance produces lingering suspicion and distrust even when experimented with in more mature societies, and can be a major setback for development as the focus shifts from development aspirations to narrow objectives aimed at sabotaging good intent.
Page 10 of the Govern-ment of Guyana paper, February 2003 ‘Towards greater inclusive governance in Guyana’ states, “The PPP/C believes that a conscious effort is required by the major political parties to build trust and establish confidence. Without such trust, suspicion will continue, motives will be questioned, policies will be judged on distorted criteria, resource allocation will always be followed by allegations of partisanship and agreements will be difficult to be arrived at.”
The answer to shared governance is for every one of us to take pride in being Guyanese with a common vision and aspiration for development, whether we are positioned in government, opposition or part of civil society.
The shared governance proposition has been contrived by the PNCR out of desperation to remain relevant to its constituents. It is this gambit that causes the PNCR to discredit the present system of governance in Guyana. We need constant trust, integrity and dedication across the political spectrum that will produce a truly united and prosperous Guyana. The problem with our inclusiveness model is the absence of trust, integrity and dedication to nation-building by all. While we have been progressing steadily over the years, the pace of our development could be quickened if all of us behaved in a more responsible manner. It is genuineness and integrity that will move Guyana forward.