Local government reform is the most useful process at this point in time

Dear Editor,
We have benefited from an ongoing and interesting debate about ‘shared governance’ − a chameleon term meaning many things to different people. Tacuma Ogunseye, Dr Eric Phillips, Clarence Ellis and Emile Mervin, among others, should all be complimented for proving intellectual stimulation on a very important national issue.

First, shared governance is neither a simple matter, nor easy to achieve. In Guyana, shared governance, or executive power-sharing will require substantial change to the present political culture. A culture which for several generations has tilted towards hegemony or total control by the centre.

The point made by the AFC’s Raphael Trotman that at this time there is no platform for sustained executive power-sharing is the absolute truth, the who1e truth and nothing but the truth.

Throughout human history, such change can be both painful and slow, or alternatively faster brought about by some charismatic individual, group or set of circumstances creating a realignment of forces within the tribe or nation state. Mankind’s history is underscored by uprisings for known reasons which propelled men to seek change, transformation or, if you prefer, reform. Plato and Aristotle earlier analyzed how uneasy human relations and economic conditions caused changes in who, or how society was ruled.

We need not be polite nor fool ourselves. Every, and I repeat, every, political elite is, by nature, always sensitive and resistant to any person or proposal they believe is likely to destabilize their positions of power.

Here we had the Dutch, British, Jagan 1957-1964, Burnham 1968 – 1985 and onwards. Such resistance to real reform must be recognized. Wider afield for the past 100 years, we must understand the environment, which led to uprisings and changes. Remember Russia 1917, Mexico 1910-1919, Hungary 1956, Vietnam 1946-1975, South Africa 1948-1994, Cuba 1959, Prague 1968. Nelson Mandela, (the Mahatma), Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, all provided the stimulus for substantial change.

But let us be realistic; our legacy of slavery, indentureship, imperial domination, brainwashing, ethnic suspicions and general distrust, worsened by a not new drift towards absolute centralized control, makes engineering a satisfactory constitutional arrangement to produce this utopia of shared governance somewhat difficult for this generation to achieve.

But happily, we do already have in place a system, that if truly reformed, can offer solace, justice and great satisfaction − a true advance. It is the local government system. If the present local government system is emancipated swiftly, we can advance our democracy, allowing the city, towns and community leaders and their citizens to mobilize their human and financial resources, work plans and programmes and so release the creative energies of both young and old in the interest of their respective communities, and of course, the nation as a whole.

Making this happen ought to be the obsession of the PPP, but in particular of the PNC and all opposition parties, social and religious groups. This question of local government reform must be taken seriously and put now on the front burner, with all details settled before mid-year so local government elections can be held. This will compel change away from a situation where now the elected government dictates to all and sundry, not to mention the manipulation by some ambitious or simple or venal political aspirants.

When the regional system was introduced, this was the idea, but it faltered for many reasons even when the centre wanted remote control. The tragedy is that with some political groups, some set of half blind, half asleep folks seem hell bent to divert our attention away from this vitally important matter of reform, seemingly anxious to serve a grand master, unwittingly being His Master’s Voice while satisfying their own personal ambitions.

Local government reform, ie real change, will be the most feasible and useful process at this point in time. Let us put aside our real or perceived differences and with one voice press the government to settle the details of reform, so that we are free to build and prosper within our communities.

I pray for wisdom, for good sense and alert minds to the real danger we face of being like the proverbial crabs in a barrel, while failing to grapple like men and women of courage, the real danger. For those who are still half blind I leave with them the wisdom of Virgil: “Whatever may be our differences, we have one common peril and therefore one safety.”
Yours faithfully,
Hamilton Green, JP

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