Declaring that a new standard of political conduct can take hold of Guyana, President Bharrat Jagdeo is urging Guyanese to seize the opportunities opened up by a ground-breaking agreement with the Opposition Leader and he also cautioned that the traditional sectors of the economy have to be reworked to make them globally competitive.
In his address yesterday to mark Guyana's 37th independence anniversary and which was scheduled to be delivered at the National Park at midnight, the President said that Parliament is the forum where political differences must be thrashed out. "I believe that our citizens will hear, our constituents will listen, and a new standard of political conduct can take hold of this land", the President said. Referring to the communiqué signed with Opposition Leader Robert Corbin which ended the PNCR's 14-month boycott of Parliament, Jagdeo said it "sets the tone for all parties to engage in less confrontational politics and to work together for the national good. Let us seize this opportunity".
He said that a new dynamism had been breathed into Parliament not only by the establishment of sectoral committees and the constitutional commissions but also by the strengthening of mechanisms for it to be more functional. "It is reasonable to expect that these changes will result in a qualitative improvement in the discourse and debates that take place within the chambers of the National Assembly".
He said it was his hope that after the historic swearing in of the members of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) that they would set themselves to work on the task of healing the "ethnic wounds" of the nation and to "dispel misperceptions and remove every illusion of institutionalized racial prejudice". It was his view that the example of the State would not be lost upon the private sector and other bodies which must also play their parts in doing away with any lingering racial prejudice. The President pointed out that the work of the ERC would soon be boosted by the establishment of a number of other commissions which would make the country "one of the most advanced countries in terms of enshrining and protecting the rights of its people".
Turning to the challenges posed by changes in the global trading system, the President said that globalisation was moving rapidly and dismantling trade and economic infrastructure that the country had become accustomed to for decades. The replacement proposals by major trading blocs within the various negotiations were still not answering the concerns of developing countries, he argued. "Let me reiterate: We are not against free trade. What we are pursuing at the national and CARICOM levels are trading arrangements that would not push us further into the margins of development", he said. Guyana, he warned, must use the interregnum to make the necessary adjustments. "We can no longer just boast of the primary products we produce and export or the mineral wealth that lies beneath our soil because they are among the least remunerated of any goods on the world market. We have to restructure our traditional sectors to make them globally competitive and to create new sectors that have higher value-added contents and are internationally tradable".
Homing in on the crime wave that has bedevilled the country since last year, the President said that in full accordance with the laws of the country the Guyana Defence Force had been deployed to support the Guyana Police Force in the fight against criminals. "This arrangement will continue. The fight against crime will remain a priority of your government. No resource will be spared", he vowed, while expressing the gratitude of the nation to the men and women of the security forces for their efforts. Since the crime wave erupted last year, 21 policemen, one soldier and a prison officer have been murdered by criminals.
The President said that as Guyana looked to the future, the delivery of health care, education, housing and other social services had to be enhanced. "We must create expanded opportunities for more jobs and wealth creation by our people", he contended.
Jagdeo said that he was pleased to see the display of renewed interest in the celebration of the country's rich cultural diversity. "We are not celebrating from where we came. We are celebrating what we have become in our country. Consequently, we must ensure that these expressions allow for all Guyanese to celebrate and appreciate the contributions of different groups. These events should serve the cause of unity, not division".
According to the President, many conditions of life had improved compared to the pre-1966 period and he cited others which were not so evident such as reforms in health, education and the banking and finance sector. He added that significant reforms of the criminal-justice system are being pursued "in order that citizens benefit from a fairer and more efficient justice administration".
He urged that there was also need to keep in mind the reform of the constitution which is having a transforming effect and is enlarging the scope of the people's involvement.