Bishop Benedict Singh says the May 6 communique signed between President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Robert Corbin marks a beginning which has to be built upon by a vigorous and militant parliament and by greater commitment, especially on the part of the government, to structured dialogue extending far and wide.
In a statement on the signing of the communique, the Bishop of Georgetown contends that the “agreements reached as far as the parliamentary committees and commissions are concerned will go a far way towards improving the political climate in our country.”
According to Bishop Singh, “there has been a discernible shift in the locus of power towards the legislature, which has been enhanced by greater oversight functions.”
“Each citizen,” the Bishop stated on Wednesday, “should embrace these developments and contribute to healing and reconciliation in the country by seizing upon the moment.”
“Let us build rather than destroy bridges of trust and hope,” his statement urged, adding that the country’s leaders have made a step forward; and it is now for everyone to join hands with them and together move the country towards the goal of national reconciliation which has eluded Guyanese for too long.
The statement said the Roman Catholic Church in Guyana “welcomes this historic meeting of minds.” Further, the Church is pleased by the decision of the main opposition to return to parliament and the spirit of collaboration which brought about and has followed the signing of the communique. “These are positive developments which augur well for the future,” the Bishop asserted.
Over the past two years, the Bishop of Georgetown observed, political bickering, strife and criminal violence had reared its ugly head.
He noted that in the face of the political crisis of that period, the Church had not been silent or inactive. “We have consistently offered our counsel and forewarned about dangers.”
Throughout this difficult period, he said, he himself has consistently called for political accommodation, cooperation, dialogue and reconciliation.
The lessons of the past two years must, however, not be forgotten even as Guyanese rejoice in recent political developments, the statement said.
In that light, he cited numerous pleas that the Church had made in recent times to promote peace and reconciliation between the political antagonists in the country.
This, he suggested, will serve as a sobering reminder that much work needs to be done and there is still an unfinished agenda.
Just prior to the 2001 elections, the Bishop had noted that the main challenge of the poll would be the willingness of the losers to accept and concede defeat.
“Statesmanship will find its true test in the manner in which the political leadership behave in defeat and victory,” the statement quoted him as saying at the time.
In July of 2001, he had called attention to the increased intensity of violence that usually follows elections in Guyana and had submitted dialogue as the best option to promote peace. Then he made other public appeals with forgiveness as the theme.
Later, against the background of the pause in the political dialogue, he pointed out that discourse between the two party leaders would contribute favourably to a reduction in political and social tensions.