Urgent need for political bipartisanship

Dear Editor,

In relation to your editorial, `Dialogue and the Trini example’ (SN Jul 24), I endorse your call for collaboration between the opposition and government in Guyana. More than ever, there is an urgent need for government and political opposition to work together to lift our nation from its present morass.

So far it has not been a good year for Guyana economically, politically, and socially. Guyana is in crisis – crime spree, jailbreaks, collapsing economy, lack of confidence of population in the government, rising unemployment, increasing impoverishment, palpable if not real racism, declining growth, political and racial victimization, targeting of opposition politicians, etc. Both the government and the opposition need to effectively work together to address these and the many other problems facing the country if we are going to realise our objectives of peace and prosperity for all.

The government has consistently blamed the opposition for not working with it. But the same government has not reached out to the opposition to collaborate on policy making or even to accept opposition ideas (as when the proposed suicide bill was rejected). Also, government affiliated political operatives and its loyalist supporters are continually saying that the opposition should stop politicking and start supporting/collaborating with government. It takes two hands to clap; government has to reach out to the opposition and make reasonable requests that the latter can support. Government cannot ask for assistance to address pressing issues while at the same time targeting opposition affiliates for investigations, harassment and intimidation.

It should also be noted that those who are now calling for the opposition to work closely with the government to address national issues were not making similar calls when the PPP was in government. The then opposition (now the government) displayed absolute disinterest in supporting/collaborating with the government of the day. And it is also noted that even the government has indicated that it has little intention to work with the opposition as proven by its rejection of a bill to decriminalise suicide simply because doing so would give credit to the opposition for piloting the bill through the parliament. And, yet to date we hear not a murmur from the strident callers for collaboration critiquing the ruling administration for not taking up the suicide bill.

Furthermore not only has the government not given consideration to a single suggestion from the opposition, but it has embarked on a massive campaign to demonise the opposition and affiliated business entities by using SARU to witch hunt opposition members and supporters. The government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on COIs and forensic auditing that have led virtually nowhere in most cases. The government has also reinterpreted the constitution to the extent of absolutely disregarding the high court ruling in a clear attempt to impose its own chairman of the Elections Commission. The opposition nominees have been unjustifiably rejected.

Is political collaboration supposed to be a one-way street? There is little achievement for the country by this kind of politicking. The ruling or opposition party may gain but the nation suffers.

There is urgent need for political bipartisanship. Government must not only talk unity with opposition. It must walk the talk – invite the opposition for its ideas on better governance and achieving goals. And the government needs to develop a working relationship not only with the opposition but also with civic society, labour and business leaders (captains of industries).

It is generally accepted that after an election, the party (coalition) voted into office is given an opportunity to carry out its manifesto (vision). The successes or failures of the policies directly affect the nation. But so far, things have not gone well as admitted by even government folks. It seems logical, therefore, that the government should seek the assistance of non government forces to realise some of its vision – a la engaging the opposition.  And the opposition should not oppose conveniently or simply for political gain. In our political history, there are more than enough examples of parties opposing policy in opposition but calling for same policy in government. It is noted, for example, much of the initiatives being advocated today for the sugar industry, and even on suicide, etc by the opposition were ignored during its term in office. And some of the ideas advanced by the then opposition (now government) including on sugar and suicide are thrown on the wayside.

The country should not allow itself  to be distracted by rhetoric for political gain. We must work together for the success of initiatives or policies that benefit our nation regardless of which party we support or which party initiates a bill.

All of us, government and opposition and civil society, need to work together on arriving at long-term solutions for the many ills facing our country. We must stop being politically partisan and vindictive. We are too small to allow political divisiveness to destroy our beautiful fragile rainbow nation. We must act in unison to tackle the many ills of society.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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