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WITHIN recent times there has developed an increasingly popular demand for power sharing and a more inclusive form of governance. These demands derive firstly from a belief that given the numerical preponderance of one ethnic group and the predilection of that group to vote one way, the other political parties and hence other ethnic groups, would be condemned to the political wilderness until such time as the numerical advantage changes. Secondly, political parties have a natural aversion to perpetual exclusion from the decision making process. And thirdly, one gets the distinct impression that the Opposition has formed the impression that Government is partisan in its allocation of goods and services, inadequate in its management of the economy and less than feeble in its response to the sudden wave of violent crime that descended on the country.
In the early 1990s Guyana benefited from a return to democratic political norms, an improved system of economic management and renewed international fraternal support. Initially, the process of transformation was very strong and optimism and much goodwill were everywhere visible and manifest. Within recent times, however, social relationships have fragmented, communal violence proliferates and the society is traumatised. To be fair to the administrations, there was a tremendous buildup of indebtedness, institutional neglect and popular despair to be overcome. These undoubtedly taxed the inner resolve of the very best amongst us and not surprisingly, given the fragile nature of our very recent past, sectional suspicions, fears and tensions, have experienced an explosive resurgence.
Problems inherited from the past have bequeathed great constraints, especially in terms of human commitment, capacities and resourcefulness. These limit the options available to any administration and placed a very high premium on strategic thinking, sound policymaking, and the well considered use of available resources. The need to foster a sense of popular involvement and communal acceptance has never been greater and must remain in the forefront of all national policy making initiatives. A concerted and well-programmed effort to structure and sustain an enabling environment, peace and prosperity, progress and development is a pre-eminent prerequisite at this time.
Unhappily, it is an undeniable fact that in the minds of supporters and opponents alike, the Government is predominantly associated with the one section of our society and the opposition predominantly associated with another; and that the great majority of both groups are expected to - and do - vote for the political party with which their community has been historically associated.
It is the expectation, taken in conjunction with the perceived manoeuvrings of some elements of the current administration and the opportunistic approach to local politics that gives rise to sectional apprehension. The current reality is that Government and the Opposition parties must be encouraged to broaden the basis of their political appeal. Democracy needs to be deepened and strengthened by encouraging wider cross-sectional participation and the growth of trust, respect and commitment.
Failure to do so deprives the nation of a sense of national unity while discouraging the level of constructive political debate that results in sound policies. In a formal sense the system appears to be democratic, since it delivers political power to the elected majority, but in a deeper sense it will not be perceived to be so, if it permanently deprives a significant proportion of the electorate of involvement in the making of important political decisions.
Guyana’s greatest need now is for a sense of national unity and for the widest possible commitment to a set of common goals. Those common goals should not be too difficult to define and to agree upon, given the urgency of a number of obvious tasks, the broad similarity in the practical content of the platforms of the main parties, and given too the constraints upon freedom of action imposed by the practical necessity of adopting financial and economic policies acceptable to the international agencies.
What injures Guyana both internally and internationally is the impression that the country is locked into a situation where one half of the polity is ceaselessly trying to undermine what the other half is trying to accomplish - not because the objectives of Government are themselves bad but because the conventional belief is that only through the evident failure of Government has the Opposition any chance at all of being elected. Similarly, able talent is effectively excluded from the process of national development. For a country with such a small pool of executive and managerial talent such a situation and the attitudes that sustain it must appear to outsiders to be singularly perverse. And so it does appear, which is itself a danger to the achievement of a sustained recovery.
Human development in its fullest sense requires democratic governance, with all the people able to participate in the institutions and decisions that shape their lives and all those who hold power held accountable for their actions. Achieving human development also depends on peace and personal security. Building a functioning state requires a basic level of security. And by being responsive to the need, democratic governance can help lay the foundations for maintaining order and managing development. It follows that human development will be hampered where all the forces are not seen to be working in concert towards such shared goals.
While the current demand for executive power sharing might be deferred at this time and while constructive Parliamentary participation remains the nursery of democratic administrative involvement, in the final analysis what Guyana needs and needs urgently is a formula that restores law and order and puts the country on the road to communal healing and economic recovery. History will forgive neither the righteous nor the unjust if our politicians fiddle while the state is torn asunder.