Guyanese need to forgive and move forward as a nation
Stabroek News
February 26, 2002

Dear Editor,

One of the greatest human beings of our time, Nelson Mandela once said in a speech to his nation soon after he was released from Robben Island

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

Your playing small doesn't save the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others"

Nelson Mandela

Mandela would probably repeat those words to Guyana and its people today.

We the People need to create our own Democracy in our Dear Land of Guyana. No one else can do it. No one else will do it for us. It simply is too valuable a commodity for us to leave to others. Not the government, not the opposition, not the press, not the international community. It simply depends on "WE THE PEOPLE".

We the People must recognise that there are many things necessary for strengthening our democracy. These include:

1. Good Governance. This involves an appropriate balance between the state, the private sector and civil society. The state has to create a conductive political and legal environment. The private sector is responsible for generating jobs and wealth within the context of a business friendly climate, and civil society is responsible for providing social and political integration and by mobilizing groups to participate in the economic, political and social activities. In short, civil society becomes the glue and moral fabric of our democracy.

2. Our government should be characterized by a system of transparency in which it is possible for citizens to assess all aspects of the government's transactions and activities.

3. Our government should encourage equity by allowing for individual initiative regardless of race, religion or class and to ensure no person will be discriminated against or given special privileges.

4. There is strict adherence to the rule of law.

5. A press that is strong, responsible and independent and one that fosters administrative transparency so as to encourage free and open debate in our society. No censorship.

6. An independent judiciary that has the institutional capacity and integrity to serve the needs of all Guyanese equally.

Of course, democracy cannot be achieved in a vacuum. Guyana has been to "hell and back" many times since independence. Sadly, memories are long and hurts have been deep. However justifying bad actions today by saying they happened in the past is cowardice and poor leadership. Guyanese need to forgive and move forward as a nation. New leadership without baggage is crucial to our transformation. Our youth should not pay for the crimes of the elders although some may argue in religious terms about "karma". Civil society needs to step forward. Our youth need to step forward. Individuals need to step forward.

John D. Rockefeller once said, "A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship." This statement is very relevant to Guyana because civil society's lack of independence from the State and Private Sector, will always compromise the establishment of a strong democracy.

Firstly, a democratic society cannot be build by undemocratic political parties either separately or in union. Power sharing among the ruthless leads to anarchy. Secondly, a just society cannot be seated when there is a corrupt or unjust judiciary.

Thirdly, a moral society cannot be achieved when our church leaders are compromised by their political orientations. Fourthly, a government that encourages, rewards and promotes racism cannot provide the leadership to create a just, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural society or democracy.

We in Guyana need a "healing event" that goes far beyond apologies for past and continuous antagonisms. South Africa had its Truth and Reconciliation Committee led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He of complete integrity, hope and trust. East and West Germany had their reunification process. Europe forgave Germany.

I do not know what our "healing process" is. Perhaps a government of National Unity brought about by "We the People".

The big question is when do we start on our healing. Since independence, our politics has destroyed the trust so necessary for a sustainable democracy. Without day-to-day fairness and communication, trust will be an elusive dream. So is our El Dorado.

We the People need to recognize it is 'We the People' who will bring about our democracy.

Yours faithfully,

Eric Phillips