The new politics in Guyana
Guyana Chronicle
June 4, 2003

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WHAT IS now being hailed in Guyana as “constructive engagement” is based on a unique, far-reaching cooperative agreement between the government and main parliamentary opposition in that Caribbean Community state where ‘opposition’ politics more than bipartisan co-operation has traditionally been the norm.

Covering some 29 major areas for bi-partisan cooperation in the interest of enhanced parliamentary democracy and improved governance, including sensitive issues of ethnic relations and non-discrimination in a multi-racial state, the agreement lays the foundation for the most significant pursuit of structured dialogue between Guyana’s two dominant contenders for political power.

The new politics of “constructive engagement”, started by President Bharrat Jagdeo and former Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte, was continued by the Guyanese Head of State and the new leader of the Opposition People’s National Congress/Reform, Robert Corbin, following the death of Hoyte in December last year.

It will be a month this week since the historic signing on May 6 of the Jagdeo-Corbin “co-operation agreement” in Guyana’s new approach away from too much politics of confrontation, to the current mood for “constructive engagement” at the highest level and extending to the representative organizations of civil society.

There is even a built-in mechanism for monitoring the implementation process of the ‘co-operation agreement’ that has placed a significant emphasis on making Parliament much more central and meaningful in the democratic process.

It would be politically unwise to view the agreement as offering any instant formula for some of the more serious social, political and economic issues in nation-building.

But both President Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Corbin have expressed the hope that their ongoing “constructive engagement” approach would prove beneficial in the long term for the social, economic and political development of the Guyanese people.

While in Barbados there has been much discussion on “the politics of inclusion”, as introduced by Prime Minister Owen Athur ahead of starting the second term of his Barbados Labour Party Administration, in Guyana President Jagdeo is now openly pointing to fostering perhaps the “most inclusive system of governance anywhere in CARICOM...”

Shared governance, as advocated by some elements within both the governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic and PNC/R, but yet to be embraced by either party, remains something of the future. But slowly, yet methodically, there is now developing in Guyana a mood of cautious optimism for socio-economic and political changes.

It is, however, encouraging that the major stakeholders of the society recognize that success would, of necessity, require meaningful attitudinal changes by Guyanese at all levels. This is wise, as it would be folly to depend on success for the way forward by simply leaving it all up to President Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Corbin and their respective parties.(Reprinted from Nation)

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