By Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle
November 10, 2002

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THE LONG promised 'joint statement' by the parties involved in the consultation being promoted by the Social Partners Group was due to be released as this column was being written.

While its focus was expected to be on the current criminal rampage that has created what some rightly describe as a "hellish" atmosphere in Guyana, still to come is the Group's effort at fostering wide and structured dialogue for a climate conducive to peace, progress and good governance.

Following the initial questioning by some of the goodwill/bona fides of elements associated with the three organisations involved in the consultative initiative - Guyana Trades Union Congress, Private Sector Commission and the Guyana Bar Association -there has since seemingly been acceptance of the need to support their efforts.

The 'advisory committee' established by the Group to address specifically the crime crisis - with all its implications for social harmony, economic investment, political stability and democratic governance - would most likely be warmly welcomed by all of the parliamentary parties, including the one creating the most difficulties, People's National Congress/Reform.

After all, with the exception of Norman McLean, both Joe Singh and Laurie Lewis served under PNC and PPP administrations. All three are respected for their wide experience in matters of national security and maintaining law and order.

The advice, guidance they would have to offer should prove most helpful to the current leadership of the Guyana Defence Force and Guyana Police Force and, by extension, the President and his Government.

My own concern at this time, however, is not with either the competence of this recommended three-man anti-crime committee. Rather, it has more to do with reports that the Social Partners Group is labouring to prepare a comprehensive report that, among other aspects, will address the vital issue of "shared governance".

I do not know if, in advancing such an idea, there have been open, democratic discussions within the Group's own respective organisations with a view to obtaining a mandate to advocate "shared governance" and how such a goal should sensibly be pursued.

If not, it may be counter-productive, to say the least, for such a bold, far-ranging proposal to be made above the heads of their own membership. And, consequently, render the proposal as lacking the support that would otherwise clothe it with required legitimacy.

For a start, the GTUC remains a fragmented body with two of its most numerically strong affiliates outside its fold, and with no known efforts being made by its national executive to heal wounds and unite.

Also, suspicions that linger about the political persuasion or sympathies of elements comprising the executive of the Guyana Bar Association ought not to be lightly dismissed.

Wider Representation

And why, I ask again, has there been no serious effort to involve the country's religious faiths in this initiative to promote national consultation.

The leaders of the Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities certainly have a role to play and should not be ignored. At least one Christian leader and another representing the Hindu/Muslim religions should be co-opted on the "social partners" negotiating team.

On the critical issue of "shared governance" itself, it is difficult to see, at this stage, what progress could possibly be achieved in what would normally be a commendable step forward.

I say this in view of the continuing negative and hostile positions of the party that is regarded as a potential alternative government - PNC/R.

* First and foremost, it cannot be perceived of any freely elected, legitimate government anywhere, even when faced with a terrifying crime crisis, abandoning its mandate for the expediency of "shared governance" with a party, in this case the PNC/R, that is yet to disavow its hostile claim to "make the country ungovernable".

* Secondly, there is the continuing boycott of Parliament by the PNC/R's representatives - a seven-month old feature that has not prevented them from receiving monthly their salary and relevant allowances.

* Thirdly, and related to the first two is the suspension, or to quote the PNC/R's own official position, putting "on hold" of the high-level dialogue between President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte.

* Fourthly, as an extension of suspending the dialogue with Jagdeo, Hoyte has rejected an initiative by the Commonwealth Secretary General to get the talks between the two leaders back on track because, as reported, of lingering differences on the implementation of decisions already reached.

* Fifthly, and by no means to be ignored, there are grave implications for social harmony and political stability of statements attributed to the leader of the PNC/R at that very instructive political meeting he addressed at Buxton.

Criminality at Buxton

On the particular question of party politics and criminality in the case of Buxton, now repeatedly described as "the epicentre" of the crime scene, it is to be hoped that not just the Social Partners Group and civil society in general would pay careful attention to the media offerings of contributors like Eusi Kwayana and David Hinds and, to a lesser extent, Freddie Kissoon and Kit Nascimento.

Although I have had my own disagreements with the foursome at different times, I think that the government, PPP and PNC should also find time to consider their media offerings.

Though some of what they say may be controversial, much of their offerings make a lot of sense, writing as they do, with Guyana's national interest at heart and doing so eloquently and courageously. For any of them to be denied expression by any section of the media would indeed be a pity

Kwayana's most recent media intervention on `The masterminds are not from Buxton’ need to be closely examined by the police for the implications raised about the physical safety of citizens, among them no less than the President of the Republic.

But in that analysis, Kwayana signalled a message that deeply troubles me. And, I guess, others who are aware of his long and admirable struggles for justice, equality and freedom in Guyana.

It was the indication that for his own personal safety it may become necessary for him to relocate out of Buxton, the village where he has spent 70 of his 77 years, to the USA!!

This is sad and shocking news. I sincerely hope that the ugly, evil, dark forces do not succeed in driving out of Guyana a son like Kwayana, a most authentic voice for the poor and the powerless.

In some ways - and strange as it may seem to the less informed - it is an authenticity that I can also easily identify with Janet Jagan. Like Kwayana, she too has often been misrepresented and maligned by people who have neither been involved in the struggles for freedom, justice and equality of this country, nor seem to understand the nature of a nationalist struggle.

It is indeed a pity that Buxtonian sons like Kwayana and Hinds must now be placed in the tragic situation of having to be concerned for their own physical safety in their native village of largely peace-loving and proud people.

Today, the mass of Buxtonians themselves live in fear of "sophisticated", well armed criminals who have made Buxton their sanctuary and have brought so much killings and losses, pain, shame and disgrace, to that East Coast village to which they do not really belong.

In this bizarre situation, talk of "shared governance" could attract more ridicule than support, unless intelligently pursued with only Guyana's interest as the number one priority.

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