A common enterprise is preferred

Guyana Chronicle
May 5, 2000

IN AN excellent article published in the current issue of NEWSWEEK, former Secretary of State, Mr Henry H. Kissinger, offers some advice to the American people. Reflecting on the United States involvement in the Vietnam war, and the resulting angst of the American people, Kissinger writes, "We will not have overcome the shadow of Vietnam - or be able to meet new challenges - until we can achieve a national consensus on these issues. And this requires mutual respect among the disputants and a conviction, nearly lost in the Vietnam period, that we are engaged in a common enterprise rather than a fight to the finish. Our political leaders may skirt these issues during the presidential campaign that is about to begin. But the winner will not be able to escape them once he enters the Oval Office."

Dr Kissinger was addressing [please note: link provided by LOSP web site] the American people in the context of the 25th anniversary observances of the end of the Vietnam war in which some three million Vietnamese lost their lives, and 50,000 American military personnel were killed. But the essence of his advice argues relevance for the Guyanese society at this time. Kissinger speaks of the importance of there being "mutual respect among the disputants" and the conviction that "we are engaged in a common enterprise rather than a fight to the finish" and we believe that these notions encapsulate simple but profound messages for promoting consensus leading to healing of the painful cleavages in the Guyanese society at this time.

It is surely one of the wry paradoxes of life that with a land space greater than the total area of all the Caribbean territories, and with a wealth of natural resources far exceeding the exploitative capacity of her population, Guyana continues to be a country riven by political and ethnic tribalism. This sense of divide, which throws up negative and suspicious behaviours, and the conditioned response in persons to second-guess every public action or proposal by leaders for sinister motives, becomes more pronounced at the time of general elections. The situation is not helped one whit when certain political minions of the two dominant political parties choose to engage in verbal wars, which tend to be bitter duels harking back to the past in the most rebarbative language. What is also distressing is the cognitive dissonance between the lofty rhetoric on national unity and the crude actions of some politicians.

As we noted in this column some weeks ago, there are many conscious Guyanese who are dreading the tensions that are sure emerge when politicians take to the hustings for the next general elections, which can very well turn out to be a replay of the last polls leaving some people jubilant and triumphal and others dissatisfied and disgruntled.

It is our view that all concerned Guyanese should inveigle political and labour leaders, the religious community, the merchants and business people, and social organisations to demand a meaningful, national dialogue with the objective of healing political and ethnic animosity.

Let us take to heart Henry Kissinger's advice to be involved in a common enterprise rather than a fight to the finish.