A window for healing
December 30, 2002
The passing last Sunday of PNCR leader Desmond Hoyte and his burial today offer a window of opportunity for the PNCR and the PPP/C to moderate the tone of their dealings with each other and hopefully open up a new, less acrimonious chapter in their relations.
Following the death of Mr Hoyte, the ruling party and the government both responded to the PNCR in a manner reflective of longstanding adversaries who regardless of their deep differences are capable of displaying sensitivity, sympathy and generosity of spirit - qualities too infrequently seen in the local political arena. It was the same manner in which the PNC for its part responded to the death of President Cheddi Jagan in 1997.
In the five-year interval between these two deaths it is saddening that so much bad blood has flowed between the parties and relations were allowed to deteriorate to the point where all the public was having were slanging matches and very little understanding and willingness to seriously engage with each other.
It is also sad that it has taken the death of Mr Hoyte to return an atmosphere of palpable civility in the way the two parties have recently related to each other. It would be a fitting tribute to the memory of Mr Hoyte were this goodwill to be harnessed for the good of the country and for the solution of some of the immediate pressing problems that we face. It would also be a fitting tribute to Mr Hoyte if this goodwill was to be transformed into a lasting forum for reasoned and self-sustaining dialogue between the two parties.
While it is commendable that the PNCR has been holding weekly press conferences to deal with various good governance issues, it must be said that the tone of these presentations and the unmasked venom do nothing at all to improve the atmosphere for dialogue. For its part, it is noticeable that the government has not been responding in kind to the outpourings from these press conferences unless absolutely necessary.
Let neither side in the coming days and weeks do anything to sully this air of cooperation and considerateness that has descended on the parties. There is much to do. There is the outstanding crime communiqué that the Social Partners have been struggling valiantly with. Rather than accusations from the sides about who is holding up the signing or being intransigent can there be a quick solution to this unnecessary impasse? After all, it is a communiqué simply registering support for the fight against the criminals and agreeing on a series of measures. There is also the complex issue of shared governance and activating Article 13 of the Constitution which the Social Partners are keen to address. There is much to be done.
Mr Hoyte’s passing should not only give pause to the squabbling parties. It should awaken in all parts of society some sort of introspection as to why we continue to treat each other the way we do. Would those kidnappers who seized the Mon Repos carpenter several weeks ago find it in their hearts to free him unharmed? In Buxton/Friendship - a staunch bastion of support for Mr Hoyte - there is a small number of persons who continue to terrorise, beat and rob innocent Guyanese. Could they be persuaded to lay down their arms?
Could the government and the unions that it is in dispute with - the GPSU and the GTU - find a way through talks to reach a compromise on salary increases rather than ratcheting up the volume of the shouting?
As Mr Hoyte is laid to rest today, his supporters and those who respect him will wish for a healing atmosphere and momentum to move the country forward. Is it too much to ask for?