Good faith and trust: prerequisites for tolerance and accommodation
A GINA Feature by Carolyn Walcott
Guyana Chronicle
December 15, 2002

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Good faith and cooperation are prerequisites essential for the co-existence of any people in a society that comprises individuals of varying backgrounds, including our very own diverse and yet unified Guyana.

A connotative view of the concept reveals its importance, since in effect "good faith" speaks of trust, confidence and assurance. It means that all parties involved in a dialogue or discourse are doing so in a manner as open as possible, with a common goal in mind to maintain a cooperative relationship.

In the local context, the exercise of good faith seems an almost absent factor, but yet it is a necessary and essential ingredient in the conducting of affairs in all spheres of society, including the private sector arena, industrial relations, the religious community, and the political scenario, all towards upholding a stable society.

While there are diverging and adverse positions on the issue of good faith, the common thread that one would recognise is the underlying need for trust, both a word and a concept that seems to have been eroded from the hearts and minds of humanity towards each other.

Expressing his views on the importance of good faith, Education Minister Dr. Henry Jeffrey pointed out that it is pivotal to the proper functioning of any institution.

Propounding on the idealistic disposition which many desire but yet lack, Dr. Jeffrey said, "most of what has been achieved politically and by extension perhaps economically, have been based upon people believing that they can trust each other."

Further, the education official added that persons cultivate trust for each other when it is perceived that "agreements will be kept."

Although the popular view of politicians is their breach of deals and good faith, Dr. Jeffrey said, " most of what is being achieved in any country of the world is being achieved when politicians are able to have faith in each other."

One of the most challenging forums where good faith and cooperation should exist is at the Union/employer level. This requires discourse between the two main players in an atmosphere of trust to arrive at an amicable resolution in the interest of workers.

Sharing his perspective on good faith, General Secretary of the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union, Mr. Grantley Culbard said that one's approach to a discussion sets the tone for the outcome, whether positive or negative.

Alluding to the bargaining scenario, Culbard said, "I understand good faith bargaining to mean that the parties involved in the bargaining brings to the table a spirit of give and take, with the understanding that 'we' are dealing with the facts and not supposed facts."

"The two parties should operate in a way that either side feels confident that the other side is not trying some underhand movement to get the better of the situation; they must trust each other," the CCWU General Secretary said.

Emphasizing the importance of each side having trust, Culbard added, " you can come out or arise from the table with a position that is beneficial to both sides, or all the sides that may be involved in the discussion."

Private sector investor, and tour operator, Captain Jerry Gouviea, prides himself as someone who has seen success today as a result of the exercise of good faith towards him.

He holds firm to the belief that good faith should essentially begin at the level of the Public-Private Sector, since these two groups hold the key to the country's development.

"I believe that between the public and private sectors, good sense and good faith must always prevail because we have to work together. It means that we should always endeavour to do and say things with a level of sensitivity to the other party," Gouviea stressed.

Touching on the political front, Gouviea said, " I believe that good sense must also prevail between political parties because it's very important for our country."

An open door approach to dialogue is a better option than "heavy-handedness” and it reduces animosity which spreads to the wider populace in many instances, he remarked.

Those who find little solace in allowing good faith to prevail among their fellow men, often see God as the ultimate being in whom they can trust with their lives.

But chairman of the Guyana Council of Churches, Bishop Juan Edghill opined that "good faith" is not only pertinent to religious leaders, but individuals at every level of society.

"When we think about good faith, we think about rational, civil, realistic behaviour," Bishop Edghill said. He further commented that for such an ideal to be achieved, it necessitates an attitude that each side takes the view of the other into consideration "in an objective manner so that at the end of the discussion whatever we arrive at would be good for both of us."

On a succinct note the clergyman confessed, "For Guyana, what is needed is for us to get rid of the mistrust and the suspicion." He bemoaned what he deems as a culture of preemptive outcomes which is taken in our society, leaving very little room open for the engagement of discussions in an objective and trustworthy atmosphere.

City Mayor Hamilton Green, who has been calling for a moral and spiritual revival says good faith cannot exist without trust.

Theorising on the issue, Mayor Green said, "Good faith is like a furnace that ignites something, either for good or evil. Once that furnace is ignited and used in the wrong way, the first casualty is morality."

"I really believe that the time has come for all sides to put aside their differences and work for Guyana," the Chief Citizen noted.

It is in the context of recent public pronouncements by sections of the main Opposition calling for an adjusted form of governance, that we have sought to highlight the importance of good faith and honouring agreements reached.

What has been Government’s record in the upkeep of good faith and openness in governing the country with an inclusive approach? In response to this and other questions, Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said the current Administration has literally gone out of its way to understand and meet the PNC/R on level ground.

"I think the PPP/C Government has a history of extending an arm throughout its decade in office," Dr. Ramsammy stated.

He added, " I believe it's a strength, and it's a Cheddi Jagan spirit of dialogue and compromise so that we can all move forward as one." This is in the light of aspersions being cast on Government for being "over-compromising or being weak" towards the main Opposition, the Health Minister said.

In crafting a participatory society, there must be good faith, Ramsammy affirmed, noting that "laws alone cannot advance this process," since "in the end it has to be the people who are willing to work together."

Highlighting the main Opposition's crusade for inclusive governance, the PPP/C Member of Parliament maintained that this system is achievable only when there's good faith on both sides.

"On the part of the PPP/C, no one can accuse it of not extending that arm, not showing willingness for dialogue and to move forward, taking onboard ideas from all walks of life, not just political, " he observed.

Citing instances of the exercise of bad faith by the PNC/R towards the Government, Minister Ramsammy said that the PNC/R’s inability to move forward on wide-ranging issues is one of its most difficult challenges.

Further he added, "In terms of good faith, in any democratic inclusive society, free and fair elections must be at the very foundation of such a society. You can't have inclusive governance unless you also have a strong electoral system where people craft rules together, and they live by those rules."

In Guyana's context, the electoral system is crafted by all political groups and the main Opposition receives ample scope in helping to choose the Elections Commission Chairman, who is chosen by the President from a field of five nominees submitted by the main Opposition leader.

Having nominated the Elections Commission Chairman to oversee the electoral process through an independent Elections Secretariat, the PNC/R's non-acceptance of election results is another show of bad faith Mr. Ramsammy said.

He singled out the PNC/R's court challenge of the 1997 election results on the grounds of the illegality of voter identification cards for voting purposes.

"We went to Parliament and we passed that Election Bill permitting the use of ID cards and then the PNC/R which voted unanimously for its use went and challenged it in court. This is bad faith at its highest," Ramsammy declared.

He added, "Not only is it bad faith towards the PPP/C Government, but to the people of Guyana and the whole principle of democracy and freedom."

Following the PNC/R-led street protests after the 1997 general elections, CARICOM's intervention into Guyana's social and political instability led to the now famous Herdmanston Accord, which, in effect, laid the framework for cooperation between Government and the PNC/R.

But Mr. Hoyte's ambivalence towards meeting with then President Mrs. Janet Jagan to work out the implementation of the various aspects of the Herdmanston Accord, which included, among other things a reformed Constitution, further exacerbated the tensions in the country.

This led to the St. Lucia accord, and finally after much delay, a Constitutional Reform Commission was set up and saw much deliberations between the two major parties before agreeing to election regulations for the 2001 polls.

Again, there was a great degree of "bad faith" by the PNC/R when it refused to accept the PPP/C victory at the polls, Minister Ramsammy reflected, and he pointed out that protest action has extended even up to today.

Touching on the composition of the various Parliamentary Committees which the PNC/R and Government had agreed upon, but later experienced hiccups, the Civic Executive bemoaned the Opposition's opting out of dialogue with Government, which had been fruitful.

He admitted, “Maybe, we have not achieved 100 percent compliance or accomplishment with all we wanted to do, but to a large extent much have been accomplished. The fact that certain depressed communities have seen development demonstrates that some things have been done."

The halt in the dialogue process has also affected progress significantly in a number of areas, including the staging of local government elections, the Minister said.

Since the President no longer holds powers to appoint certain Commissions under the reformed Constitution, today there's "paralysis," Ramsammy said.

Against this background, there have been no appointments of a Judicial Service Commission, Teaching Service Commission or Public Service Commission due to the PNC/R's prolonged absence from Parliament.

'Those who need their cases tried are suffering because of this bad faith," Dr. Ramsammy declared. He emphasised the need for "bold steps" to be taken by all sides towards moving forward.

"In developing a gentler and kinder society good faith is essential,” Minister Ramsammy conceded. “It calls for a collective approach, not only by Government but a responsible Opposition party, towards building an inclusive society," he added.

On all accounts it is clear that good faith and trust must precede any dialogue process.

In order to maintain and share a vision of national unity and development, the onus not only rests on our leaders, but every sector of society, to make self-sacrifice for the benefit and preservation of the country.

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