Civil society moves to get involved in decision making
Seeks people’s views on the way forward
Stabroek News
July 14, 2002

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Members of civil society are moving to exercise the right guaranteed in Article 13 of the Constitution to be part of the decision-making process of the country.

As a first step they have called for the parliamentary parties to give effect to their commitment to the principle of inclusive governance.

An advertisement to this effect is published on page 9 of today’s issue of this newspaper. It challenges the political parties to provide the space for civil society to work with them to realise the dreams, aspirations and potential of all the peoples of Guyana.

The advertisement says too “as members of civil society, we admonish ourselves for not being more forthright in our advocacy for good governance and the process of reconciliation and reformation.”

Among the organisations associated with the call are the Guyana Indian Heritage Association, the Guyana Shipping Association, the Guyana Council of Churches, the Guyana Trades Union Congress, the Private Sector Commission, the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana, the Guyana Bar Association, the Guyana Rice Millers and Exporters Association, the African Cultural and Development Association, GAP-WPA, and the Red Thread Women’s Development Programme. Some of the individuals who signed the advertisement on their own behalf were businessmen Stanley Ming, Saludeen Nausrudeen, Baldeo Chaitram and Hamley Case; Accountant, Mohamed Karimullah, trade unionist, Leslie Melville, Clayton Hall, environmentalist, and psychiatrist, Bhiro Harry.

The call follows a meeting on Friday at the Hotel Tower attended by representatives of a number of social organisations and individuals who share the view that the political parties should no longer be allowed to dominate the decision-making process.

Vic Puran, a political commentator, who is coordinating the group’s activities, says that the advertisement is the first of a number of initiatives that the group will launch while it determines whether or not it should be formally organised.

The second initiative, he says, is to be a mobilization of the people at meetings across the country to air their views and to determine which of them they could arrive at a consensus on and move forward. These meetings, he says, would be followed by an invitation to the parliamentary political parties so that the group could communicate the views of the people to them.

Puran says the objective of the meetings is to test the hypothesis that the group has arrived at, that the people are displeased and to give them the opportunity to air that displeasure.

He said that the group would have to fund these meetings themselves, as ideally it is an activity that Guyanese must undertake for themselves since it could be seen as an indicator as to how strongly they feel that as people we have to make an about turn.

The group has its origin in a workshop hosted by the Carter Center which looked at conflict resolution and was attended by representatives of a wide cross-section of civil society organisations. The discussion at the workshop centred on a presentation by a conflict resolution expert, on the theoretical methodology of looking at societies in conflict.

Puran says the group, as now constituted, includes people who are involved in politics, people, like himself, who intend to get into politics and others who have no intention of ever getting involved in politics.

Offering a personal opinion, Puran said he believes that this is not the time for new political parties but for offering the people a new expectation of hope. “This is the time for securing and facilitating the best possible working relationship between the elected representatives of the people.”

Puran said that as a people we must not despair because no one as yet has come up with a solution to our problems. “We must realise that is so because the problems are complex,” adding that what he expects is “out of the interplay of new ideas and directions coupled with action the process will evolve out of which the solutions will emerge.”

Puran says that what is important is that as a society we give ourselves social time to facilitate the process so that it could nurture and grow.

“We must become aware of the reason for the darkness,” Puran said, explaining that it is due to the “existing political system and structure in place for the past 50 years collapsing.

“Therefore we must be brave enough to look for hope not within the collapsed political structure but energise their collective wisdom to fashion a new and inclusive future.”