Ralph Ramkarran’s piece ‘The PNC, APNU and national unity’ (SN, October 13) jogged my memory to recall Dr Cheddi Jagan’s speech during the budget debate in 1989. In that speech, Dr Jagan said:
“Guyana’s greatest need today is a broad-based independent and non-aligned National Patriotic Front Government of all democratic progressive and left forces. Such a government must be formed as a result of free and fair elections. And in keeping with our winner-must-not-take-all alliance policy, even if the PPP wins such an election, it will not dominate the cabinet and government.” Dr Jagan must have been deeply attached to these sentiments for those were the words of the message on his 1990 New Year greeting card ‒ wishing that the new year ushers in “New Victories in the Struggle for Peace, Freedom, Democracy, and Social Progress.”
I also recall that at the time of Dr Jagan’s speech in 1989 there was, as a Chinese saying asserts, “great disorder under the heavens,” one manifestation of which was the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a traumatic experience for many in and out of Guyana. But back to Guyana’s needs, including that for national unity. After the 1992 national elections the government was formed by the PPP to which was added a Civic component. Was this arrangement consonant with Dr Jagan’s 1989 prescriptions? If not, were the objective conditions so changed between 1989 and 1992 that a variation in the prescriptions became necessary? I would like to be enlightened.
Whatever the answers, the sad fact is that national unity is today still not a reality. It remains but an aspiration, though a widely shared one. In looking to the future on the matter of national unity, we must of course be aware of and take account of the efforts and positions of our past leaders (and others). We should not, however, be imprisoned by their conceptions, nor become disillusioned by their lack of success. There are lessons to be learned. Let us give them due respect and bear in mind that there are political constituencies by which they are revered.
The task for our current leaders, and all of us, is to creatively craft new strategies and construct new pathways to the achievement of national unity in the context of today’s conditions, circumstances and possibilities. In undertaking this task it should be recognized that compromise is not a four letter word. Indeed it is an instrument of statecraft which has been used successfully from time immemorial. We should not be afraid to use it. No less beneficial would be the embrace of contemporary methods of conflict management and conflict resolution. Finally, it would not be unhelpful if public discourse could be infected with the virus of civility.
Rashleigh E Jackson