One of the greatest strengths of a government is its diplomacy and ability to strategise. These attributes are essential for them in navigating their way through difficult situations and periods. In reference to the cancellation of the two Guyana Chronicle columns by Lincoln Lewis and Dr David Hinds, while I can understand that the government may not be happy with some of their comments, it has to be more strategic. These are two persons who desire to see this government do well, but they do not have to agree with everything it does.
This arrangement of a coalition government has done something great for Guyana. It has created a ‘space’ that no other government has ever created in Guyana, at least not in my time. Even though almost half of the population did not vote for the government, many of them feel a sense of ownership that they have not felt before. If one analyses presentations from members of the opposition, even they feel a sense of ownership. There is a tremendous sense of ownership from the diaspora too. The international community also feels a sense of ownership. Now this is a great thing that has happened for this country. The challenge for the government, however, is how to harness the dynamism of this ownership. However, I think that some persons in the government are of the view that they need to control this energy, and that a huge mistake. The government has to strategise on how to use this priceless ‘space’ which has been created to its advantage.
What happened on 11 May, 2015, was not a mere change of government, it was change. People did not vote for the APNU+AFC because they necessarily liked the political parties or the people in them, but the APNU+AFC was the symbol of the change.
The government now has to strategise as to how it would harness this energy and excitement that the idea of a coalition government has generated. The expectations of this government are tremendously high, though sometimes I think unreasonably high because the operatives are humans too.
There is talk in the street about the coalition disintegrating; however, it would be a huge miscalculation, for any one party in the government to be of the view that it can operate independently from the other. Coalition governments will be the future governance structure in Guyana for a while. The government is held in place by some forces which are seen and unseen; one of the unseen forces, which is an added value that the concept of the coalition has brought, is trust. Most people in Guyana no longer trust a single political party to govern any more, hence the coalition conception will gain more power and take on a life of its own.
Therefore, any one political party in this government that believes it can win or operate on its own, will be equivalent to a pilot taking an aircraft to 40,000 feet and then deciding that they do not need the engines anymore; the result will be inevitable. Even the PPP will not win another election on its own, at least not for a long time to come.
With specific regard to the cancellation of the two columnists, my recommendation would be to reinstate them. While I do not always agree with their style, approach and content, I respect their views and that they are strong enough to express them; every man to his own order.
Further, I would recommend that the government put in place a mechanism to capture and address suggestions and comments which will assist in the growth and development of the country; this is one way of harnessing this energy. A good approach would be to establish a ‘Quarterly Critics Review Session’, where commenters or persons such as Lincoln Lewis, Dr David Hinds, Frederick Kissoon, Ralph Ramkarran, representatives from the media, civil society, business and international community review the government’s performance, and some of the gaps and hindrances in various areas, eg security, education, economic development. This allows for the government to engage strategically with these persons and various organisations, as well as to develop a structured approach for collecting information and addressing issues. The end result will be that issues are addressed instead of being raised over and over again. It will also build social trust, strengthen relationships and support for the government. I am well aware that the government has in place other mechanisms to monitor and evaluate progress, but the emphasis here is on engaging more strategically.