The signing of the ‘Cummingsburg Accord’ by David Granger, Leader of A Partnership for National Unity, and Khemraj Ramjattan, Leader of the Alliance For Change, has changed the course of Guyana’s political development forever. For the first time in our country’s political history, a multi-party, pre-election coalition, representing 51 per cent of the electorate has been formed to contest the general and regional elections.
The ‘Cummingsburg Accord’ concretises the inclusionary character of the policies of the two parties which have been collaborating throughout the short 10th Parliament in which the People’s Progressive Party/Civic on the government side had a minority and A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change on the opposition side had a majority in the National Assembly.
The APNU-AFC coalition has much work to do, however, to regain the trust of the people in the efficacy of the parliamentary process after 22 years of PPPC excesses, lawlessness and recklessness. The Coalition assures citizens that their votes at the next elections will translate into democracy and good governance; that their representatives will truly represent their interests and are accountable to them.
The APNU-AFC coalition will re-energise citizens through openness and access to their representatives; through government which treats all citizens as equal under the law; through the sharing of information on matters of public interest and through subjugating partisan politics to the national interest. People’s interest in participation in the political life, especially among the marginalised segments of the population, in this way will be rekindled. Young people, particularly, should be motivated and mobilised to take a more active role in political life and the development of the nation.
The APNU-AFC coalition will continue along the road to establishing a covenant or compact among its citizens. The Constitution prescribes an inclusionary democracy:
The principal objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their wellbeing.
The Coalition will make greater use of the committee system in the National Assembly to protect and propel the process. Lance Carberry, former Opposition Chief Whip, endorsed this trend several years ago (in an article, “Full time MPs needed for parliament oversight” in the Stabroek News, July 27, 2009). Carberry emphasised the importance of strengthening institutional capacity, systems and procedures which “promote effective oversight” of the executive and ensure its “accountability” to the people. He said the ultimate objective is good governance, underpinned by the observation of the rule of law.
The CARICOM Charter of Civil Society – specifically Article VI which deals with Political Rights – gives the undertaking that:
- The States shall ensure the existence of a fair and open democratic system through the holding of elections at reasonable intervals, by secret ballot, underpinned by an electoral system in which all can have confidence and which will ensure the free expression of the will of the people in their choice of representatives.
- The States shall take all appropriate measures to promote and maintain an effectively functioning representational system, including the holding of regular public sessions of representatives of the people.
- Every person shall have the right to:
(a) form a political party or organisation;
(b) join a political party or organisation of his or her choice;
(c) attend public meetings of political parties or organisations;
(d) participate in the activities of a political party or organisation;
(e) give expression to his or her political beliefs in a peaceful manner;
(f) make himself or herself available for nomination for and election to any public office for which he or she qualifies.
- The provisions of this Article shall not preclude the States from taking measures authorised by their Constitutions to regulate persons employed in the service of the State with respect to their participation in the activities of a political party or organisation.”
Citizens, clearly, are guaranteed the right of freedom of association without fear of victimisation. Paragraph 5 of Article XVII of the Charter commits States:
(a) To foster continuously greater cost-effectiveness in their operations while being facilitative and supportive of the development process;
(b) To ensure that all persons are treated fairly, humanely and equally by public authorities and holders of public office and all those who exercise power so as to affect the quality of life of our people;
(c) To ensure responsiveness to the needs of the people as consumers in the delivery of goods and services.”1
Caribbean Heads of Government may have signed the Charter but adherence to its tenets was voluntary. It appears to have been honoured more in the breach than in the practice in some countries.
The ‘Cummingsburg Accord’ is the best means available yet for ensuring that the Charter is honoured in this country. The APNU-AFC coalition is the best vehicle for moving towards giving full effect to the concept of ‘inclusionary democracy.’ The Coalition, more importantly, will rebuild trust in the National Assembly and rekindle the confidence of our citizens in governance after twenty-two years of damage to parliamentary democracy by the People’s Progressive Party.