We need to jump-start the process of constitutional reform
April 27 2018
I have time and again argued in several letters to the press that the current ‘winner takes all’ model of governance has, over the decades, failed to advance the process of national reconciliation and social cohesion. One can, in hindsight, speculate what our political landscape would have looked like today had there been no split in the PPP in 1955 into two opposing factions. One consequence of that rupture was the emergence of race-based politics which, for all practical purposes, continues to bedevil us as a society until this day.
Nor can one stop wondering what could have been the likely outcome had Mr Burnham accepted the offer by Dr Jagan in the aftermath of the racial disturbances of the early 1960s, for a coalition government between the PPP and the PNC, almost on parity terms with respect to the distribution of ministerial positions.
Unfortunately, after over 60 years of bitter and at times acrimonious politics between the two major parties, we are still nowhere closer to a solution to the political crisis that has engulfed this otherwise blessed country of ours.
This year, the PNC would have completed thirty years in power which, incidentally, is the same for the PPP in terms of years in government. This could be an opportune time for serious political instropection by the two parties and hopefully commence in earnest, the search for a new governance paradigm that takes into account our plurality and more specifically, the issue of ethnic insecurity and racial polarization.
With the emerging oil and gas economy, the political stakes are likely to be much higher and the degree of competitiveness and rivalry even more intense unless a new governance formula can be ironed out to mitigate the fears of exclusion by significant ethno-cultural constituencies.
This is why it is so important to urgently commence the process of constitutional reforms with a view to arriving at a power sharing formula that will enhance the comfort level of opposing political camps. The level of distrust is much too ingrained in the national psyche to leave the management of the oil and gas economy exclusively in the hands of one or the other of the two major parties.
The current administration must, as a matter of urgency, put in place the necessary mechanisms to jump-start the process of constitutional reforms as promised in its manifesto. Guyanese are tired of the confrontational and adversarial politics of the past and are looking forward to a new governance mechanism based on genuine representative democracy, one in which everyone, regardless of race or political affiliation, feels integrally and organically connected to our national goals and aspirations.
The challenges to governance in plural societies such as ours could be enormous, and at times intractable, as past experience has shown. But I believe it is not beyond us as a nation to rise above these challenges and put the national interest before narrow partisan and individual interest.