Potential conflicts can be transformed if decision-makers engage with citizens

Dear Editor,

The Stabroek News print edition of Thursday 8 Feb, 2018 might not have been deliberate in its layout to show the disconnect in governance in Guyana and how Guyanese are being treated.

There are the reports of the Parent Teacher Association and the Board of the Central High School protesting at the Ministry of Education and being greeted with disrespect as they remain also uncertain about their school. Their protest is based on the lack of engagement with the ministry. It is unfortunate that the Ministry of Education did not take the opportunity to talk to the protestors and arrange the necessary discussions and interactions. There might be solutions to the problems affecting the school which could be amenable to all persons.

There is also the report of the interaction which President’s Granger Advisor on Petroleum, Dr Mangal, had with students at the University of Guyana. It seems a new kind of interactive governance where President Granger has not objected to the interaction of the Advisor with the public, in a sector where secrecy and uncertainty have dominated. It is unfortunate that the Ministry of the Presidency distanced itself from the presentation at the University of Guyana. Next time, a representative of the Ministry of the Presidency will accompany the advisor on the engagements with the public so that the ministry can learn about public interactions and the benefits to good governance. The university students were being encouraged to push for a better deal with Exxon, even as the students have to also deal with the issue of raised fees. The students in other reports seemed to have thought of pursuing protest to seek an immediate resolution, while the UG Students Executive seemed to want  to take the languorous approach in the justice system. The courts could easily decide, as the existing Exxon contract, that everything is legal and cannot be changed, but as we know from our brutal history where oppression was very legal, what is legal is not always what is just.

So many potential conflicts can be transformed if the decision makers take time to sincerely engage with the citizens who will be affected by the decisions.

Yours faithfully,

Vidyaratha Kissoon

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