The PPP and the PPP/C government has always committed to consultation with the masses on issues of development. Indeed, the late Dr Cheddi Jagan, the party’s Founder Leader, always emphasized to party members and supporters, and moreso party leaders, that people, including the ordinary people, have views on issues and these must be heard and considered. In the process, he stressed, partnerships are often developed among individuals, groups of people and communities and decisions are made that factor in local views.
The return of the People’s Progressive Party to the political helm in October 1992 through the democratic process saw a return to community outreaches and consultations. Also, it provided opportunity for the people to seek clarity, offer comments and suggestions and express any concern/s they may have in regard to matters of importance to them.
The lack of or inadequacy of public engagements whether these be one-on-one meetings, community outreaches/consultations result in political leaders being out of touch with the political and socio-economic realities in the communities, villages, towns, regions and the country. In addition, the expectations of the Guyanese people in terms of desirable measures to improve their livelihood will not be met. Recent visits to markets, hinterland communities, a number of sugar estates, rice farms, etc, and meetings with concerned Guyanese by Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and team allowed for both sides to exchange views and information and ultimately decisions to be taken on the way forward.
I remind our party’s regional, district, group leadership and members, and our comrades in elected leadership positions in the Regional Democratic Councils, the Town Councils, the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and the Amerindian Village Councils, that these local democratic organs were established to provide services to the residents within their respective boundaries and to represent the citizens at all levels. They are accountable to the people who elected them. The recent parking meter issue in Georgetown ought to serve as a reminder of the stark consequences of indifference to the views and needs of the people who elected their representatives. They will wake those representatives up from their slumber.
The participatory democracy which local government is intended to engender goes beyond merely electing representatives. It allows for active participation as an individual and as a community in the decision and implementation processes through appropriate participatory mechanisms. Though I concede that public participation can be time consuming and costly, a socially acceptable compromise must be found. Our regional, municipal, NDC and AVC leaders and councillors must reach out to the citizens with greater frequency, planning with them and not merely for them. These reach-out activities provide opportunities for both sides to air their concerns, to highlight inadequacies at every available forum and solicit guidance and representation on their behalf. It is a way of building trust and ensuring that the voices of the people are heard. It ultimately replaces corruption, incompetence and arrogance with consultation, inclusiveness and accountability.
While it is true that the APNU+AFC government continues to display indifference and insensitivity to the needs and expectations of the Guyanese working class people, and indeed, does not stand out as a paragon to be emulated, I advise that community leaders continually build bonds of trust and confidence with the residents they represent. It’s one way to improve rates collection and get the people on board. When citizens are involved in the process of getting things done to benefit themselves, it helps to restore the confidence, credibility and the trust of citizens in the work of the council. But this involvement must go beyond mere one-to-one exchanges, phone calls, street corner and rum shop engagements.
Consultation is a continual process of discussion, deliberation and decision-taking with the ultimate goal of examining alternative choices and, as often happens, reaching consensus on the ultimate choice among options. Indeed, the range of issues and potential impact that helps one to make correct decisions can change between one consultation and the next. Furthermore, the impacts can never be completely accurately predicted.
The PPP and the PPP/C are committed to a continuation of this process. We do not see these engagements as a one-off activity or event. It’s about staying connected with the masses of the people, moreso the downtrodden. It’s about grounding/bonding with the masses of the people all of the time, moreso since the realities around us have determined that we need to, ie, crime, taxes, high prices, high unemployment especially among young people, corruption, incompetence, arrogance. The people are fed up; they are angry but the government is not listening. This is the government that built up their hopes and expectations and has not even satisfied 50% of its 100 day plan after being in government for almost two years. It’s about improving good governance practice.
At this time, the Guyanese people must know that they have a friend in the PPP/C. We will continue to reach out to them and bond with them.