Those readers interested in this column would no recall that some six months (25 Fridays) ago, I penned a piece captioned ‘Inclusionary Democracy My Eye!’
I discussed the intent of the much-touted Article 13 of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. That’s the constitutional provision which guarantees, ostensibly, our citizens right to participate in the decision-making processes of the state, especially with respect to “those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being”. Grandly, that Article 13 begins by declaring that “the principal objective of the political system of the state is to establish an inclusionary democracy …”
How well-intentioned are these types of articles and provisions in our supreme law! Fundamental ideals to which to aspire; but, dear reader how included in national decision-making are you? Do the representatives you put in the Assembly ever consult or include you? Well I concluded that March 12, 2013 piece by advocating the mobilisation and organisation of Civil Society as one method to give effective, representational force to the “inclusionary democracy” of the famous Article 13.
Now, one of my Constitu-tion-oriented friends was just going on about another similar declaration in our little-read supreme law. This opening line also reeks of a great, fundamental, albeit ineffective, aspiration which attempts to be real and factual.
It proclaims that “sovereignty belongs to the people…” Oh yes? It goes on “…who exercise it through their representatives and the democratic organs established by or under this Constitution.” (Chap 2: Art. 9). Incidentally, the Constitution’s preamble is also chockful of these sovereignty aspirations. I argued with my friend that the Constitution, well-meaning as any national guide should be, is seldom made manifest and effective. I contended that even the elected representatives of the citizens – the people – including the government, do not routinely engage them in the sovereignty which is ostensibly theirs. Is it that the people, having reposed confidence and authority in elected politicians and the State’s public servants, should leave the exercise of sovereignty to those elected choices? I think not!
In the Guyana society of today the working-class majority of the populace witnesses non-disclosure of the details of government investments done in its name. Transparency is as a result of relentless private enquiry only. One lady minister says she’ll not discuss her ministry’s business with the private media. As if her ministry’s business is not the people’s (sovereign) concern.
The constitutional ideal about the people’s “sovereignty” – meaning “supremacy in rule or power; a State’s authority with no external control”, must translate, ultimately, into actual people’s authority, even power, to insist on procedures and structures that will support the promotion, then reality, of socio-economic justice for both majority and minority.
As it still is here, as I suppose elsewhere in the challenged Third World, we are made to witness the evolving concentration of the wealth of both the country’s resources and foreign investment, in just one segment of society. The wealth-poverty gap widens with even opportunity being ascribed to the spoils of criminality, including the lucrative cocaine trade. So what is to be done about making real, so-called people’s sovereignty?
But what Civil Society? In this challenged, compromised, stressed-out, partisan country, culture and economy?
As I mentioned in the March 22, 2013 offering, we do have a variety of NGO- Civil Society groups. From a Transparency Institute to a TUC, to a human rights or religious entity. But they are routinely ignored in the corridors of power. How can they be effectively empowered?
Well I did read after committed comrades informed me, that there is a significant trend in the world of the donor community. This emerging dispensation sees donors to developing countries – whether governments or international financial institutions – going for a sort of tripartite arrangement whereby there is the donor, the national government which receives the assistance and, thirdly, a Civil Society (neutral) third party-type monitor to help ensure that donor funds reach the real intended beneficiaries.
This new international trend speaks to the new and vital status of Civil Society. But is Guyana ready?
Next time we’ll discuss possible strategies to empower Civil Society, using the legal and conventional instruments already available. Discuss…
“Wealthy” or not, our country’s past Heads of State should enjoy a very comfortable life-style befitting the status they once boasted and, hopefully, the wonderful leadership and service they gave us, as a nation. But should a former president’s current socio-economic status be the citizens’ concern? Their business?
My reason for raising this issue here stems from two facts: I read often of former leaders of other nations being charged with wrong-doing after they demit office. No matter how long afterwards, some presidents are held for fraud, corrupt practices, inciting killings, including genocide and so on. Great that we here are spared that sort of thing. Also, almost every week some sections of the local print media assail me with insinuations, or outright accusations, regarding former President Jagdeo’s stewardship or his current status.
I give Bharrat Jagdeo his due, in that I recognise his international standing as a leader in the world’s climate change/forest preservation debate; the economic achievements made here, at the macro-development levels.
I marvel that a young PPP/PYO man from a humble fishing village could study economics in Moscow, work at our local Economic Planning Unit, with Haslyn Parris, become junior finance minister, then senior, under Cheddi Jagan. Then Wham! Before we know it, know him, he is our president!
I know he does not now have a large family of his own; that he built one big house then swiftly sold it, to build a really grand edifice of a home near Sparendaam. I suppose a president will attract wealthy friends or colleagues who stick by him after his presidency. But when Opposition Leader Granger wonders, publicly in print, whether Mr Jagdeo is the Marriott investor, those things confuse poor me. What’s your position?
*1) How can former presidents assist the poor?
*2) What’s the latest strategy to clean up Georgetown?
*3) Do you “admire” the tactics and “filibustering” government employs to stymie opposition business?
*4) This whole country can’t migrate, so what should be done to preserve our rights?
‘Til next week!