Reaching out and balancing

Guyana Chronicle
June 24, 2001

EVEN BHARRAT Jagdeo's political opponents and critics must be impressed -though they may not publicly admit to it - by the leadership style of the country's Head of State and Government.

Accustomed to a punishing work schedule, the young, very energetic President has been kept extremely busy in responding to a host of post-election problems, some of them known to have been directly engineered by the main opposition.

Whatever the nature of the problem, the President has been demonstrating not just a readiness to quickly meet with representative delegations to learn of their particular grievances/complaints and suggestions.

He has shown a most encouraging readiness to reach out to troubled communities by making personal visits, listen to the people, assess the validity or otherwise of their complaints, and recommend relevant actions.

This refreshing reaching-out-to the people approach in governance leadership, is, as one of his close colleagues recently remarked, consistent with his learning from his mentor, the late President Cheddi Jagan, under whose leadership in the PPP he was exposed from the tender age as a school lad.

His Mentors

Jagdeo would also have learnt much from the indefatigable Mrs. Janet Jagan who he succeeded back in 1999 when she gave up the presidency due to her health.

Today, when he visits the mining community of Linden, it will mark the latest example of Jagdeo's leadership spirit - in being directly among the people, at the first possible opportunity, for on-the-spot assessment of what's really wrong and what ought to be done, or cannot now reasonably be accomplished. Or, simply not practical or just.

He is making the trip to Linden having met with a delegation from the mining town only on Friday following some violent protests that involved clashes with the police in order to maintain law and order.

The President previously had to make hurried official visits to other troubled communities, following violent protests, some bordering on anarchy and very stressful for the Police.

There were, for example, the disturbances on the East Coast, including Buxton, the tension in neighbouring villages that developed following the murder of two men and a boy, mysteriously shot to death.

There were the uprising at Albion, followed by the Linden protests that also included clashes with the police, as occurred elsewhere.

Commendable as his responses have been in quickly making himself available to meet with representative groups/committees in the wake of demands to settle grievances, the President, nevertheless, has to ensure that a distinction is made between legitimate, lawful protests and the politics of confrontation and lawlessness.

To legitimise confrontation politics and lawless behaviour, however strong the desire to ensure an environment of peace, could prove counter-productive in the longer term and undermine the very stability, democratic values and good governance to which the President and his PPP/Civic administration are committed. A healthy balance is imperative.

This argument also applies to dialoguing with the other parties in the spirit of inclusiveness and 'moving forward together'. If the other side feels that 'consultation' and 'inclusiveness' are really working only when THEIR views or demands prevail, then this would be as inappropriate and unjust as a scenario in which the government side must always win out.

What is sorely needed in our current stressful, volatile political climate is for that element of goodwill and trust that can make of compromise the norm rather than the tactics of bullyism and resort to abuse and race-hate messages, illegal demonstrations and confrontation politics.

As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. This is true of Mr. Jagdeo and community-based groups in Linden, Albion, or else, working together in a climate of peace, as it remains also for the main opposition to cooperate with the President and his government as they reach out to resolve the immediate major problems afflicting various communities.