Urgent need for dialogue

Stabroek News
March 23, 2001

Events yesterday along the East Coast Demerara and elsewhere signal that we are at risk of travelling a full circle of forty years back to community disintegration.

But this is not the threshold of independence, it is just another election - Guyana style.

Elections in Guyana are decided by race voting. That is a matter that has to be addressed in the long term, because people cannot be forced to exercise their choice in ways they do not want.

But the governance of Guyana should not be decided by race. And that is a matter that is in our hands to address now. There is no democratic reason why race voting must lead to race power, because in a multi-ethnic political society the proportionate democratic right to participate in decision making of 40% of the population should be 40%, not zero.

We have to find a way of giving that 40% a real stake in the decision-making processes of governance, and of giving them a veto in areas of governance that demand consensus.

But right now we are threatened by chaos - and nothing can be discussed, much less constructed, in chaos.

The leaders - Mr Jagdeo and Mr Hoyte - must talk now, not about parliamentary committees and public sector board memberships but about stepping back from the brink and sitting at the table to construct a national government. And civil society representatives like the Trades Union Congress and the Private Sector Commission must demand that they do so now.

Whatever either thinks about who "won" and who "lost".

Because unless they do, no one will win. All of us will lose.