The Rule of Law and civility must prevail at all times

Dear Editor,

There are slippages in this society that must be arrested as matter of urgency. The Police Force, after a short hiatus, has returned to behaving like judge, jury and executioner. This nation is not at war with itself where unnatural casualty is considered acceptable. Equally as it is wrong for someone to murder, under any pretext, so too it is for the police to engage in extrajudicial killing. If extrajudicial killing was wrong during the Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar administrations, it cannot be right now.

President David Granger set the right tone when early in his presidency he made it clear extrajudicial killing will not be tolerated and the accused must have his or her day in court. It is disturbing extrajudicial killing gets commendation by the AFC via its column in Kaieteur News. Celebration by persons on social media for such killing is not vindication or valid evidence to embrace lawlessness. Ours is a nation of Laws and the Rule of Law, which includes the activation of the Coroner’s Act, must prevail at all times.

In 2005 former Chancellor, Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General Keith Massiah had this to say, “Killings, however reasonable and expedient in the opinion of many persons of goodwill, ought not to be countenanced. Even the alleged serial killer, the persistent rapist and the paedophile, detestable as those pariahs are, enjoy the fundamental right to a fair hearing and the full protection of due process. Persons who are thought to have committed crimes must be arrested, charged and tried in a court of law. Nothing less can be accepted.” This sage advice still has value.

The ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on the matter of consultation/non-consultation by the Guyana Sugar Corporation and Government with unions (GAWU and NAACIE) in the industry on the issue of the recent redundancy exercise is lesson to all of us. While the CCJ said consultation had taken place, it critiqued the level of same, noting it could have been better and attitudes more civil. The CCJ’s pronouncement on civility in governance was also echoed in the case brought before acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire on the interpretation of how the appointment for GECOM Chairman ought to be conducted.  

While civility (good manners) cannot be legislated what these two cases have pointed to is the departure of manners in public discourse and the management of the people’s business. This must be addressed forthwith given the damage that is being created in society.  The adage that manners maketh man needs to become centre-stage again as was imparted and insisted on in our upbringing.  

The other issue is that of Local Government and the redrawing of local authorities. While such may be purview of the subject minister, civility and Article 13 in the Guyana Constitution dictate those affected by the decision should not only have been made aware after the fact but involved in the process.

Leader of the Opposition Jagdeo is correct in calling for consultation and involvement on matters of national import. He is reminded of what he rightly calls for, had he as President favourably responded to similar entreaties the degeneracy he condemns today would have given him  the moral high ground to speak from. That being said, non-consultation, poor consultation and incivility have to stop. The coalition government was given the mandate to bring about the change and it must be held accountable to do so.

Society is being advised by the President that dialogue, on issues of national import, with the Leader of the Opposition will commence when the latter is ready. According to the Constitution the President is Head of State and Head of Government, which means as Leader of Guyana the office holder shoulders premier responsibility, and it is the expectation of citizens such leadership is delivered on this matter. Having presented the coalition’s areas of interest (oil and gas, environment, and crime) for discussion when the parties initially met on 19th July, 2018, the Opposition Leader said he would have consulted with his party and returned to the table.

The President needs to give a specific date for this return where he will be properly advised as to the Opposition Leader’s decision and if possible the commencement of establishing a consensual agenda that will guide the parties’ discussions/engagement. There is too much animosity in political discourse and this engagement is being looked forward to as the beginning of civility between the forces on matters impacting workers/citizens’ well-being. Engagement could aid in reducing tensions and bringing about a level of peace and harmony. This meeting forms part of day-to-day governance and is equally important as resolving the border controversy, preparing the National Budget, making a foreign trip to conduct government business, and the pouring of oil.

The Prime Minister (PM), second highest constitutional office, has been given the responsibility for governance. Governance cuts across every ministry and department yet it is being touted that he has no power and authority. The failure of the PM in asserting himself in this responsibility and delivering leadership has to be attributed to the absence of a Policy Paper/Document being developed and ensconced within the philosophical direction the coalition would like to pursue. Article 13 gives him a platform to develop a policy from which engagement and programmes will evolve.

The weaknesses that exist in a number of areas in the government is the result of an absence of clear policy positions, and what is being seen is that ministers are operating as supervisors not policy developers and directors. It is time that the actors come up to speed with what governance entails, what are expected of them, and what they commit to change and do.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

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