Partnership sought for 2011 elections -citizens group launches process

A group of citizens has initiated a process aimed at creating a broad Partnership to contest next year’s general elections.

It has released to Stabroek News a document containing the draft of a protocol and six principles which are intended to stimulate vigorous discussions prior to formalizing a Partnership for the 2011 polls.

A source close to the group said that an announcement would be made shortly of how interested members of the public and the diaspora can share their opinions on this initiative.

One of the proposed principles would see a list of presidential candidates being drawn up and the Preparatory Committee considering the conduct of a professional opinion poll as one way of obtaining views on who is best suited to be Head of State.

The group, describing themselves as ordinary citizens who wish to help in making Guyana a better place for all, said the document proposes the setting up of a Preparatory Committee. “Membership of this Committee should reflect differences of race, ethnicity and gender” and include not more than 30 persons with no more than three persons representing each political party. Taking account of religious, cultural and skills-based concerns it is proposed that the Committee should contain no more than three persons representing each of the following interests: youth, business, advocacy, trade unions and civil society.

It is further proposed that at its inaugural meeting the Committee should examine and approve an agenda, elect a chairperson from its membership, create mechanisms and procedures for its work and consider adoption of the protocol.

The protocol says that the persons behind the initiative are all citizens of Guyana and come from all races, genders, religions, classes and wage groups.

Some are members of political parties and some are better known than others. “However, we are all united by our commitment to improve the standards of political behaviour, public dealings, social discourse, transparency and accountability”.

It added that the group saluted all citizens who speak and write about issues that include the constitution, the functioning of Parliament, the performance of institutions that dispense justice, the disbursal of public monies, the conduct of security institutions entrusted with probing complicity in murder, drug-trafficking and money laundering and the brutality against women, children, older and disabled persons.

“We believe that every citizen shoulders responsibilities to assist others to work for the creation of the inclusionary democracy envisaged by Articles 13 and 149C of the Constitution”. Article 13 says that the principle of the political system is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens in the management and decision-making processes of the state.

Article 149C says that no person shall be hindered from participating through co-operatives, trade unions, civic or socio-economic organizations in the management and decision-making processes of the state.

The document from the group said that “We recognize that this task requires commitment to the virtues of honesty, hard work, thrift, sacrifice, fairness and life-long learning as the only pathways to excellence in personal performance and success of our country”.

It then proposed six principles to steer the work of the Preparatory Committee. These are:
* The interests of the Guyanese people as a whole shall be paramount at all times and deliberation on matters of race, ethnicity, gender, religion or status shall always support and further the application of this principle.

* Standards of political behaviour demand the rejection of all attempts to coerce or manipulate in any way the free and transparent election of officials and representatives of all organizations signing the protocol.

* That in contemplating the most appropriate model for the future management of the country’s affairs “account should be taken of experiences of the past 30 years when candidates of both major political parties occupied the office of the Executive President where power is over-centralized”.

* That taking account of the distinctions in the functions of Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary, thought should be given to recommending that the person performing the functions of Head of State must represent “at all times only the interests of all Guyanese and must act in strict accordance with the dictates of the Constitution”.

* That in mulling the qualities of prospective presidential candidates for the Partnership “the Committee shall also consider independent persons of proven integrity who are honest and always able to question themselves”. Further, candidates must acknowledge that differences of opinion are an ethical imperative that demonstrates respect for others.

* That following the crafting of a register of recommended presidential candidates, the committee will consider the carrying out of a professional opinion poll as one means of obtaining the views of citizens about the most suitable person to become Head of State.
The proposed principles are intended to facilitate the adoption of a focused programme of work that could aid the Committee in delivering of the following tasks in a timely manner.

First, an approved protocol that binds all signatories to the principles, policies and strategy that will guide the effort of the Partnership and that confirms the criteria and process for selecting the Partnership’s presidential candidate.

Second, a report containing considerations, recommendations and conclusions of the committee’s work should be finished no later than ten days after its first meeting.

The report should contain the terms of reference of a manifesto and summarize the main activities to be undertaken following election to serve in government.

Third, the Report of the Preparatory Committee will be circulated to all Guyanese here and abroad through the use of all available print, electronic and other means.

The drive for a broad-based partnership has been spoken about increasingly in recent weeks following the triumph, in particular, of the People’s Partnership in Trinidad which saw the election of the Twin-Island Republic’s first female Prime Minister and a heavy defeat for the incumbent PNM.

In recent months there has been talk among opposition parties for such a partnership to challenge the PPP/C at general elections but without clarity.

An attempt for a partnership at the 2006 general elections came to naught following differences over the role of the PNCR and other matters.

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