Nagamootoo calls for dialogue and shared governance

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See below a column written by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo:

Prime Minister Hon Moses Nagamootoo | MY TURN

DIALOGUE ON THE WAY FORWARD

The APNU+AFC Coalition of Parties has stated that it remains “open to dialogue” on the way forward for Guyana.

The Coalition said it is doing so “in the national interest, and with a view to maintaining stability and peace”. It assured further that “the APNU+AFC Coalition is prepared to act responsibly to bring a resolution to the ongoing political situation”.

The on-going political situation of course is the prolonged delay in the declaration of results for the March 2 elections, including a 33-day recount process and attendant legal proceedings, that have combined to place Guyana in its deepest crisis ever.

For the see-far pundits reading the magical tea leaves, the Coalition’s statement is politically and strategically correct. It was both an invitation to the major opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for talks and a curtain-raiser to what seems to be a positive signal for power-sharing.

RENEWAL PROJECT

In my July 12 column I had said that dialogue on the way forward might sound like a worn-out cliché. However it is intended as a road-map that seldomly works well or smoothly, but it is always useful if only to momentarily steer antagonists away from the dangerous precipice.

Since then I have seen the emergence of the little-known “The Guyana Renewal Project” group which is calling for a period of inclusionary democracy. In a Communique, the Project stated:

“There are deep concerns and fears about the ethnic polarization and unseemly racism that haunts the land. Guyanese citizens at home and abroad want a homegrown solution. They recognize that now is the time for dialogue.” (July 19, 2020)

The Project Group, which bundles Guyanese intellectuals here and abroad, has made specific proposals for its inclusive governance idea. These include rotation of the posts of the presidency and prime minister (as in Israel and Afghanistan), and equitably shared Cabinet portfolios between the two major parties or blocs.

Commenting on the situation a former Ambassador and Jagan confidante, Geoffrey Da Silva, observed:

“With the political stalemate, the reality of the conundrum of inter-ethnic rivalry between the African and Indian communities, and unfair ethnic and class competition, most Guyanese realise that, based on their previous experiences, the solution is not an elective despotism (a winner-take-all government), nor a dictatorship. Either situation would definitely widen ethnic and class disparities with grave consequences.” (Stabroek News, July 19, 2020).

He noted the fragility of a victory for either of the two major parties that is based on a one-seat majority with just over a percentage point lead. He predicted that even “a PPP/C Government cannot be successful if it monopolises governance…”

DISTRESS SIGNAL

For Guyanese citizens, not versed in nuances of political opportunism or skullduggery, the call for dialogue at this time is an SOS distress signal. They see the Guyana ship of state in danger, and they want all hand on deck to literally save their souls, as they battle the COVID pandemic and try to cut corners for survival.

For the PPP to come at the table would require a tough decision by visionary leaders. They could use history as a guide, and avoid impetuous responses.

On August 12, 1977 then President Forbes Burnham rejected an offer made by Opposition Leader Cheddi Jagan for the PNC and the PPP to form a “National Front Government”. Sadly, to this day, over forty years later, Guyana is still bleeding from her wounds due to ethno-political division and the animosity between these two major parties.

This time around the shoe is on the other foot, and it is the Government that holds out the olive branch to the Opposition! If history were to repeat itself, yesterday’s farce could be today’s tragedy.

POLITICAL DIVISION

That failure of political leaders to heal “the incompatibility and animosity that characterize their relationship” was noted by former American President Jimmy Carter after his visit during August, 2004.

Recalling the post-1992 promise of healing the political division and ethnic polarization, President Carter expressed dismay at what he described as 50 years of fierce rivalry:

“Instead of achieving this crucial goal of inclusive and shared governance, the Guyanese government remains divided with a winner-take-all concept that continues to polarize many aspects of the nation’s life”. (August 14, 2004)

I have met President Carter on three separate occasions, and with his Center routinely. At the top of their concerns were proper continuous voter registration, campaign financing laws, constitutional reform and a technical/non-political elections commission instead of the current partisan set-up.

Guyana rejected good advice at its peril. The failure to effect meaningful constitutional and electoral reforms has resulted in an unholy trinity of a bloated voters list, use of dirty money and influence-peddling, and an almost paralysed elections commission. These have combined to degrade into a vulgar sideshow of fraud, what otherwise should be free and credible elections.

ETHNIC RIVALRY

Much of this is due to ethnic rivalry, which was highlighted by Jason Calder in his article, “Ethnic Conflict threatens democracy in Guyana” (March 26, 2020).

Calder, who founded the NGO, “Saferworld”, knows the local turf having observed several elections in Guyana with the Carter Center, including the 2020 elections, over a sustained 25-year-period.

Calder described as a “toxic system” the winner-take-all constitutional formula that pits the Indo and Afro Guyanese communities against each other in every election. He dug deep into our past when, he said, the CIA manipulated Guyana’s ethnic rivalries for Cold War ends.

He said that the ethnic violence unleashed during that era still scars the country today, saying:

“Every nation struggles with its demons, but the US government bears unique responsibility for some of Guyana’s.”

Jason Calder concluded that the winner-take-all system is not right for Guyana, and that the call by Guyanese elder statesmen for constitutional reform of the winner-take-all system “must finally be put on the national agenda and treated seriously”, in order “to break the endless cycle of division and recriminations”.

It is in this fresh context that we should see the critical importance of dialogue. The alternative would be a vicious circle of conflict, confrontation and non-cooperation.

4 Comments
  1. Terry ramjohn says

    No shared governance. We will be in the same crap either Or

  2. Matthew says

    Nagamootoo has been calling for shared Governance since March 14 when it was clear the fail-safe rigging had failed. He never had any time for it though between 2015 and 2020 even though all he did was open 2-3 fried chicken outlets and other stores.

    Fact is the PEOPLE OF GUYANA are the ones to decide on ‘shared governance’…….lets say that the PPP (who were voted out in 2015) and the PNC (who were voted out in 2020) were to form an “elite government”…….who would the voters vote out in 2025????????? If they were say disappointed in the Government?????? There would be no way to get the Government out of power which is just as bad for democracy as the present system.

    NO……to Nagamootoo and the “share de corn”…….The people of Guyana want the following in this order:

    1) A legitimate Government respected by their peers in the world and Caricom.
    2) Dialogue on reforming GECOM
    3) Dialogue on reforming Constitution
    4) Dialogue on reforming “first past the post”
    5) Dialogue on Presidential powers. ****No more “I ain’t leffin for jus’ now”. That is supposed to sound creolese and homespun…..but is actually a dialogue derived from “early rigger”, an almost extinct subspecies in the world and certainly the Caribbean.

    If the PPP ignores all this once installed in Government…..it will be at their own peril in 2025. If the PNC impedes the discussions in any way to make it look bad for the PPP, then it will be at their peril as well…..and Guyanese WILL be looking at 3rd options.

    So please Nagamootoo…..demit office, the voters who brought you maintained their right to vote you out…..and they did just that. Nothing less will be satisfactory.

  3. Mahabir Singh says

    He should leave he is loser and all loser try to hang to power as you see in this APNU party. They can’t take there loss so they go all out with corrupted officials try to steal an election for that they loss. They are a hopeless bunch of Hippocrates. They are trying to screw up democracy period.

  4. Mahabir Singh says

    Don’t have any dialogue with someone who has lost the election and playing a catch and mouse game. First you accept defeat before any sort of compromise. It is sad your party lost by 15000 and more votes and any bullshit you bring up is a joke. The recounts did you lost and the other parties to agree with a party that is trying to screwed the people from day one stay in power one year longer by losing a no confidence vote and now you lost and remain for 5 months appeal an election that you lost and all the stake holders agree except the corrupted wicked APNU that is only trying to steal an election and nothing else. Granger and his buddies are dictators trying to remain in power against democracy and trying to be strongman that has no intention of give up power at any cost and is dishonest decietful and wicked.

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