Lincoln Lewis hit the nail on the head with a sledgehammer when he rebuked politicians across the board for failing to use an inclusionary approach in negotiating the oil contracts signed by successive governments with CGX and ExxonMobil.
I believe Mr Lewis is a genuine patriot whose social commentary is impartial and insightful.
I endorse his call for politicians to uphold Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution mandating inclusionary democracy to secure the input of Guyana’s diverse groups, talents and skills in the affairs of the state. He is also absolutely right that the opposition that is now calling for inclusionary democracy did not practise it while they were in government.
From what I have seen in Guyana’s politics, this form of hypocrisy poisons all politicians; outside the seat of power, they see with a different eye. When a governing party loses power and becomes the opposition, its members suddenly see things differently. Similarly, when an opposition party gets into government, its members quickly get a radically different political perspective.
This is how raw, ugly, naked power and wealth poison the minds of decent men and women and make them start to look at life from a tainted, cock-eyed position. When the PPP/C was in power they never practised inclusiveness in important national negotiations or even socio-cultural activities. Apparently the current administration is hell-bent on doing likewise.
Both Lincoln Lewis and I understand that tit-for-tat politics definitely will not work. An eye for an eye will make us go blind and a tooth for a tooth will make everyone toothless. The PPP has brought accusations of hypocrisy on themselves by calling for the same inclusiveness they denied the opposition when they were in government. At the same time, it is disturbing that the current government, which got into power by promising to correct the wrongs of the previous administration, is now doing things the same way.
They should have been exemplary, perfect and on the ball, but we have seen a lot of strange occurrences like the Chairman of Gecom and the Chancellor of the Judiciary being appointed without the concurrence of the opposition. I echo Lewis’s call for government to stop sidelining the opposition in the oil conversation and tap into the institutional knowledge and resources of the official representatives of nearly half of Guyana’s population.
This brings me to the point Lewis did not touch on, that I believe must be considered carefully in light of his contention. It will be recalled that AG Basil Williams did not respond to his predecessor Anil Nandlall’s offer of his services for the sake of providing good and lawful administration. This means the former AG’s offer was refused, which indicates that they do not trust each other.
Furthermore, the Universal Peace Federation had invited both President David Granger and former President Bharrat Jagdeo to a neutral place for a meeting to foster wisdom and maturity in the opposing parties’ dealings with each other. Both leaders gave lukewarm gestures of interest, but neither found the time to attend. Our political leaders do not trust each other and this has trickled down to the general population. Mutual mistrust has polarized our society into racial camps and while the parties manipulate this to their political advantage, it actually works to their national disadvantage.
Decent people who enter politics are changed by this deep rooted mistrust and consequent political venom. The painful truth is that politicians on both sides have indulged in vicious and often wildly unfounded condemnation of each other.
Apart from mere name-calling, there are active investigations into criminal activities and ongoing court cases. What are the implications for democratic inclusiveness in Guyana when politicians on each side portray themselves as angels and their rivals as demons? Why should angels invite demons to sit with them at the negotiating table?
Perhaps the way forward might be to appoint a special non-partisan body of seasoned professionals to oversee important negotiations involving Guyana’s scarce and finite mineral resources and not just leave it up to the politicians.
Trickery and corruption are rampant in international big business circles and when Guyana has to enter this arena to exploit its resources and maximize benefits for the people, its negotiators need to be focused and united. I believe Guyana has professionals with the credentials and moral uprightness to do justice to the work of such a body and who can rise above the political poison that afflicts too many of our politicians.
I have written letters to the media on the need to renegotiate the Exxon/Mobil deal. It is obvious that oil companies have learnt from what happens when there are major oil spills like the one in the Gulf of Mexico that BP had to spend billions of dollars to clean up.
Now Exxon has made provision for this in the current contract that puts the responsibility on our country. Where did we sign the contract? I hope it was not in Texas? I hope no one signed away Guyana’s birthright while blinded by food, drink and other excitement offered by the company. Businesses in developed countries are known to use this as a tactic. Don’t forget the city council officials who were wined and dined in Mexico during negotiations for the parking meter contract.
I would like government to renegotiate the oil contract in a responsible way that would make Guyana an example of how to hammer out good deals with multinational corporations and win respect around the world. This means including the ideas and advice of the opposition in the negotiations, and the proceedings must be conducted without fear or favour.
As a die-hard patriot and eternal optimist, I believe Guyana can pull this off against the odds, provided good sense prevails. That is why the wise counsel of Lincoln Lewis on this matter is a step in the right direction. I support his viewpoint and call on all right-thinking Guyanese to do the same.
Haji Roshan Khan (Sr)