The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) continues to demonstrate it has earned its place on the opposition benches. Today as one reads or listens to the utterances and reasoning of the leadership of this party, who when they had the confidence of the people to govern, trampled the very things they articulate to justify their present place. This society now has the benefit of hearing the PPP/C talking about respect for inclusionary democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, and the importance of the rule of law as ensconced in the Constitution and Laws of Guyana. It is therefore clear that they knew what was right but engaged in wrongdoing.
Anil Nandlall’s letters on the Constitution make interesting reading. His interpretation of the spirit, intent and letter of this instrument in large part cannot be faulted, yet as the leading legal person in the PPP/C, who also served as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, he failed to pilot his party during its stewardship in government along these said lines.
This society is still reeling from wanton violations of the rule of law during the PPP/C stewardship. Freedoms and rights, the most fundamental being that of the right to life, freedom of speech, right to work, freedom of association, and the right to collective bargaining were trampled on with impunity. Ours had become a society littered with horrors due to the wanton disregard for these universally acceptable principles under successive PPP/C administrations.
Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo has recently made a call for an inclusionary approach between the government and opposition, via parliamentary and extra-parliamentary engagements, in revisiting the contract with ExxonMobil amidst growing public concerns as to whether Guyana got the best deal or not. What he is calling for in this specific case is consistent with what is considered a responsible role by a political party.
Our parliament is the nation’s highest decision-making forum and the PPP/C is the elected representative of almost half of the society. The Constitution requires of us an inclusionary approach in the management and decision-making processes of the state on matters that directly affect our well-being (Article 13). The new oil and gas industry falls into this category and will impact supporters of the PPP/C and the wider society.
It is unfortunate that when the PPP/C government started the exploration and signed the initial contract with ExxonMobil the wisdom of taking a national inclusionary approach was not considered or seen as vital. Not once was this matter brought to the people’s attention for national discourse nor was it placed on the National Assembly’s agenda. Mr Jagdeo as President, in other areas such as sugar, bauxite and hydropower ‒ major economic shifts ‒ too failed in taking a similar approach that today he calls for.
Some will argue based on the PPP/C exclusionary approaches to governance it deserves to be shut out, but wisdom dictates that tit-for-tat is an inimical approach to good governance since it hurts development, human and otherwise.
As there continues to be observation of the politicians’ conduct on both sides, what we need on issues of national import is political maturity, the need to treat all with respect and dignity, recognition and respect for constitutional duties and responsibilities.
The politicians know what is right but when given the confidence of the people to manage their affairs they do wrong. This is why society must continue
and intensify its vigilance and hold them to account. We must not be afraid to speak out, articulate our understanding on any issue, and/or put them on the opposition benches when they fail to conform to practices of good governance and commitments they made when not in government.
Further, as we hold those today in the executive accountable, including for commitments made while in the opposition, we must so equally hold those who are today in the opposition for squandering the privilege given to them by the people to serve in the executive when they trampled on us and mismanaged our resources.