January 23, 1998
The menu of measures agreed by the leaders of the PPP/Civic and the PNC are not a panacea for our problems nor were they meant to be. They were designed to provide a solution for the dispute that had arisen on the election results and to create the opportunity for dialogue and for constitutional reform. All of this can be achieved if there is goodwill on all sides.
There will, of course, be problems. There will be bickering on both sides, supporters will express dissatisfaction with the settlement, there may be slight delays for technical reasons in getting the audit off the ground and setting up the Constitution Reform Commission (Parliament has to be constituted to pass the necessary laws and because of the l2 seats that come in through the regions this takes time). But these are all minor irritants. If the leaders continue to put their authority behind the settlement, if they do all they can to expedite the convening of parliament and the passing of the relevant legislation, and if they start dialogue soon on what has to be done and all the other issues the momentum can be maintained. It is up to Mrs Jagan and Mr Hoyte to maintain publicly their moral and political support for the process.
Guyana has gone to the brink, not for the first time. The economic development we have experienced since l989 has been threatened. Indeed our country has been distinguished over at least the last four decades for political strife and unheaval due to both ideological and racial reasons in the course of which there has been mass emigration and a huge brain drain, the economy has collapsed and the education system has become a shadow of its former self. The society seems to have turned in on itself and to be unable to achieve political stability and to concentrate on the onerous but rewarding task of economic development, opening up the country and providing citizens with a decent standard of living, a good education and hope for the future.
These are the huge issues on the table, nothing less than the future of our country. We must make every effort to look them clearly and soberly in the face, to come to grips with what is involved, and to make our own contribution to transcending the petty hatreds and the negative politics, the awful, cynical, business as usual, hopeless, get on the first plane out kind of syndrome.
Our political leaders, too, must recognise that most people are heartily sick of the shallow, beggar-my-neighbour politics they have endured for so long. It has led to alienation and despair. They must resist the temptation, too, to interpret what has happened now as an unfortunate accident. It is not, it is in the nature of the case and it has happened many times before in different shapes and forms. There is a sickness in the society which can only be cured by mature and statesmanlike political leaders getting down to the serious business of peace and development. Let dialogue start, let's get the show on the road. We have suffered enough and for too long.