Change requires an active, engaged citizenry and civil society

Dear Editor,
As the nation approaches the 100-day mark with a new government, the customary evaluation must focus on both the executive and legislative branches, since the management of each is in different hands. Understandably the honeymoon/probationary period has been a mixture of feelings, action and inaction. But moving forward the citizenry expects the executive and the parliamentary majority to clearly outline programmes which will deliver good governance and put the nation on a path to peaceful co-existence, security and prosperity.

A unique characteristic of this dispensation is that it presents the parliamentary groups with the opportunities to deliver on their campaign and manifesto promises.  While the combined opposition has the leading role to manage the people’s interest, the government bench has the leading role to restore prudent management, fiscal responsibility and public accountability to the executive. And together it offers both sides the opportunity to correct the deficiencies of the state, which must also include the judiciary being empowered with the independence and teeth to effectively and efficiently function. Thus while the independence of each branch must be ensured, the ability to check the performance of the other creates the needed balance to deliver better service to us all.

Given that our constitution is the foundational and supreme instrument of state, it offers the road map to chart our course, including making amendments as becomes necessary, towards the realisation of a ‘perfect nation.‘ Thus as we move forward it is important that all our elected representatives make themselves au fait with this document to understand its scope as well as their responsibilities and duty, and execute same without fear or favour, affection or ill will. And since ours is a representative democracy, it is now clearer than ever that we must give true meaning to same. Every group in this society must therefore enjoy their right to participate in the management and national decision-making of the state that directly affects their well-being, consistent with the Principal Objective of the Political System of the State (Article 13 of the Constitution). And it behoves the politicians to ensure this through meaningful continual engagement with the stakeholders, since theirs is the role to represent the people’s interest, not impose their dictate on the people.

The shortcomings of the electoral system, government/party control of the state media, campaign finances and too few women in the political sphere, which are illuminated in the Organisation of American States Election Report, does not augur well for our representative democracy. The political parties must no longer ignore these anomalies.  Our constitution mandates a minimum of one-third women on the national and geographic List of Electors. Ipso facto such must be reflected in the respective parties’ representation in parliament.  The violation of women’s rights must not only be arrested by the affected but also by those entrusted with political responsibility who are committed to equality.

Further, the PPP abuse of the people’s money needs correction, as well as ensuring the right to freedom of expression which is not only constitutionally guaranteed but is sacred since it allows us to give expression to our pains, desires and achievements. To this end even as a promise is made to reform Gecom, legislative effect must also be given to reform of campaign financing and the state media (the people’s media) by ensuring equitable representation of our voices.

As laws and rights remain the pillars of democracy, the society can ill afford the continual disregard of the law, the tyranny of the majority, or the exclusion of any group. Going forward all must have an equal stake and must be made to feel that they have this. Importantly too, the focus on overseeing the behaviour of the opponent or another branch of state, must extend to include overseeing the behaviour of self and group. As we rightly expose corruption, violations of the law and transgressions of rights by another, we too must hold ourselves and those within our group accountable to the same standard. For never again, given the debilitating effects of the Jagdeo administration on this nation, must anyone be made to feel that s/he is above the law, or gripped by fear to speak out for what’s right.

Crucial to this change, however, is the need for an active and engaged citizenry and civil society. For this is our moment, our time. And let it be recorded that when we were called on to deliver, we came together and seized the opportunity. From this day onward let us commit to fostering a society that will assure our seniors their struggles were not in vain and bequeath to the young a brighter tomorrow.

Yours faithfully,
Lincoln Lewis

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