There is no debating that the use of tobacco has proven detrimental to man’s health, life and livelihood, and that responsible government would have to take measures to protect the health and wellness of society. There is no debating that there is need to bring about order in our broadcasting culture. Having said that the APNU+AFC government must be mindful of their constitutional obligation to the people and the society. This nation’s “political system,” according to Article 13, is management by “inclusionary democracy.”
This government campaigned on the commitment to govern consistent with this “principal political objective.” This objective requires “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 well-being.”
Examining the expressions from stakeholders in the tobacco and broadcasting industries, which the government has not denied, is that they have been excluded from having an input in the Bills brought before and passed in the National Assembly that will affect their well-being.
Ensuring civility in society by government requires that it pursues issues with civility. The minimisation of conflicts between government and the people requires that government pursue the people’s business with a sense of decorum, guided by the Constitution, laws and time-honoured principles.
While Bharrat Jagdeo, as president, treated the citizens with contempt and did as he pleased, this does not absolve this administration from doing what is right, decent and principled.
Let me belabour the point: people are calling for constitutional reform but the things in the constitution that would bring about good governance and improve relations between government and the people are not being respected. How on earth, when these are not being upheld, will constitutional reform bring about changed behaviours? Matters like these reinforce my position that the problem lies not in the Constitution but with the people who are charged with the responsibility as guardians of it to uphold it.
There is a knee-jerk reaction of making it about the disgruntlement of the PPP/C, but the laws were made for all, and included in the disaffected are those who publicly supported this government. I have never before seen a government that has come to office riding on so much good will squandering it like a bucket of water whose bottom is full of holes. Everywhere you turn around this government is picking a fight with interest groups. If they continue along this path very shortly there will be none left to fight, and they will turn on themselves. This government comprises a group of people who are doing everything to be removed from office. In two years they have made Jadgeo more relevant than he was in his last three years as president.
The economic well-being of those in the tobacco industry and who ply their trade from it will be negatively affected. There is also the issue of revenue being lost to the state. Shrewd governance would consider these factors and see the importance of upholding Article 13, engaging the affected constituents, and providing support to alleviate the shock that will ensue, or create new economic opportunities. It is time humane and economic considerations be integral in government decision-making, which would also be reflective of the spirit and intent of the Constitution.