National unity and the politics of divisiveness Editorial

Kaieteur News
November 2, 2006

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Guyanese cannot unite and work together as a single unit to overcome the country's social and economic difficulties unless they resist and reject the crass opportunism and inflexibility of certain political forces that are purposefully keeping the people divided.

The moral clarity and economic necessity of national unity are unmistakable. The best and possibly the only way for Guyana to achieve sustainable economic development would be through the concerted efforts of a united people. But Guyanese cannot channel their efforts and energies towards common national goals and objectives unless they first put aside their differences and agree to cooperate in the nation's interest. To do so, they must reject the age-old culture of divisive politics.

Guyanese are very familiar with political leaders' rhetoric of national unity, but are yet to see their words translated into genuine action. The people can only achieve national unity in a social climate that facilitates all-inclusive togetherness with a common sense of purpose and enthusiasm. The creation of this climate depends on the force of public opinion, and the attitudes and actions of the nation's major political forces heavily influence public opinion.

The political forces in Guyana have both the capacity and the means to mould public opinion. If their leaders can set aside their differences and cooperate meaningfully for the sake of the nation, others will certainly follow and the climate for national unity would begin to take shape. The problem is that the political forces pay only lip service to the concept of national unity. No political force has been nationalistic enough to initiate and sustain an atmosphere of reciprocal latitude and goodwill with its political opponents.

The competitiveness and hostility of Guyana's political forces is so overpowering that they cannot make a single unambiguous move to put Guyana above politics and seek rapport with their political rivals. The net result of this is widespread cynicism among the people regarding the possibility of national unity anytime soon. People cannot take calls for togetherness seriously when political leaders preach unity while heaping vitriol and ridicule on their political opponents.

For calls for unity to be truly relevant, they must be supported by appropriate action. The truth is there have been no distinct and meaningful moves by Guyana's political forces to promote unity by mellowing their relations with their political adversaries. It is one thing to dream of togetherness, another thing to preach it, and something else to work diligently to bring it about. As long as the political tribes continue to exchange unendurable provocation, their relations will continue to be tense and unproductive.

Political reconciliation and a lull in the tensions among the nation's political forces are essential if there is to be any hope of national unity. It is simply pointless for the political parties to talk about national unity without acting in a way that suggests their full commitment to that goal. They have to motivate their supporters to move towards togetherness and reject divisiveness. Without the climate for unity, the best-intended calls for unity are hollow and empty.

Let us hope that the antagonistic political forces in Guyana can find enough nationalism in themselves to abandon their transparent politics of divisiveness and promote togetherness. The economic recovery of the nation as well as the healing of social wounds inflicted over countless years of division and strife depends on whether the ties that bind the Guyanese people together are greater than the differences that drive them apart.

The extent to which the Guyanese people can resist and reject the divisive politics of the political forces that guide them is the extent to which the achievement of national unity is feasible.