The judge's order settled the issue
January 29, 2001
The consequential order granted on Friday by Justice Claudette Singh in the elections petition case that the government should remain in office pending the new poll has conclusively settled the issue of post-January 17 governance of the nation.
It took an order of the court to arrive at a decision that all the parties could live with. The megawatts of nervous energy burned up in the country while the ruling was awaited could probably have prevented the blackouts that have recently hit California.
All sides are now expected to comply with the order and one expects at some point there will be an explication of how the judge's ruling that the state media can only be used for campaigning via paid advertisements will be monitored.
Importantly, the path is now clear for preparations to proceed unhindered for the post-reform elections and the entire nation now anticipates that a well-run poll will lead the way out of political deadlock, stagnation and animosity.
Were it not for her edict, it is not at all likely that a political agreement could have been reached by the four parliamentary parties on the way ahead. The politics of reasonableness has so far escaped our leaders. Though the PNC's initial demand that the government step down was clearly not reasonable the code of conduct applied in India for governments in transition did present an opening for a compromise but was not favoured by the PPP/Civic. It unilaterally settled on voluntary restraints in four areas which did not amount to much under the circumstances.
The return of democracy in 1992 certainly did not lead to the flowering of robust and meaningful dialogue between the major parties. With the unrest that followed the 1997 elections, the situation worsened. PNC leader Hoyte's stance that the government was illegal and not recognising the President made it impossible for any real dialogue to flow between our leaders at the highest level. There was of course the ground-breaking meeting at the Office of the President between President Jagdeo, Mr Hoyte and the leaders of the other two parliamentary parties but it failed ultimately in providing the basis for a governance agreement.
Even at the lower levels, much was not accomplished between party functionaries. The dialogue that flowed from the Herdmanston Accord was an unmitigated disaster and only succeeded in throwing up flash-points that further served to undermine stability. The failed efforts of the all-party committee on post-January 17 governance was an inauspicious sign. After dogged efforts and numerous meetings the parties were unable to bridge the divide despite the best efforts of the AFG's Dr Roopnaraine. Lawyers for the main parties were given a further opportunity by the judge to create consensual ground prior to her consequential order but this, too, failed to spark compromise.
While the parties have worked reasonably well together in parliament on legislation, constitutional reform and other areas they have failed the Guyanese people when it really mattered the most. That's why CARICOM was needed for the Herdmanston Accord and the St Lucia Statement, that's why former Barbadian AG Maurice King had to attempt to bring the two parties together, that's why at every step of the way St Lucia's PM Anthony has to monitor the situation here, that's why the donor community has to be involved in our elections, that's why dozens of observers are needed to monitor and bless the elections, that's why Justice Singh's ruling was so critical.
The approaching months will not be amenable to political dialogue of any kind though it is hoped that in the days ahead the parties can agree to the terms of a code of conduct for the poll campaign. One hopes, however, that with a fair election a greater measure of civility and flexibility will suffuse political life in this country and make it possible for honourable compromises between our parties on the testing issues.
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