November 28th must be the dawn of a new era. This nation has suffered too much and the people severely deprived for us to continue business as usual. It is time to rebuild our society on the foundation that holds all, bar none, accountable to upholding rights and laws which are essential ingredients to peaceful co-existence, holistic development, and maintaining the sovereignty of our nation state.
The GTUC does not support the call to have November 28th (election day) declared a national holiday. The culture in this society is one where whenever there is a public holiday public transportation draws to a halt. A sizeable portion of this society depends on public transportation to get to the polls and to encourage or make November 28th a holiday would be another attempt to subvert the right of citizens to cast their ballot. The issue of voting is a right in contrast to governance which is a privilege and this right must be zealously protected and let the process start now. Every one needs to vote and be allowed the unhindered opportunity to vote to elect the person(s) to advance their interests and protect their gains. To vote is to bring benefit to your livelihood, community and country. To not vote is to give away your right in determining who manage your affairs and in so doing you have also given away your right to speak about the shortcomings and abuses of those who are foisted on you, since voting is a right and everyone needs to protect this right by turning out in their numbers on the date and within the stipulated time to cast their ballot in determining their future. It is also the first step in participating in decision making as it relates to self and community and must be taken seriously.
The responsibility of law and order in this society, and more so internal security, is vested in the Guyana Police Force and any attempt during the election period by the Private Sector to get involved in any aspect of the police operation is interference in the work of those vested with the legitimate responsibility for law and order. For we take note of their offer to the police of transportation and whatever else is needed, but while this sounds good, most important to us must be, “is it right?” This nation must evolve from accepting what sounds nice to embracing what is right.
In this new dispensation that will dawn on November 28th, it is expected that conflicts will be addressed in a matured and constructive manner, void of fancy talks and agreements that are abstract and meaningless to aiding the process of peaceful co-existence and holistic development. In fact what we are asking for is that whenever decisions are made primacy must be given to those affected and not priority be placed on political gerrymandering since governance is a major element of politics and politics is about people and people’s development.
Poverty has pervaded this society for too long and has been a major element in some anti-social behaviours and the destruction of families and it must be handled in a constructive way with the goal of closing the gap between the rich and the poor and which would also serve as a disincentive to crime. All over the world it is known that the only successful method in addressing poverty is to put people to work. As such the government has a major responsibility to put systems in place for the creation of jobs. May we make it very clear that the notion embraced by some politicians that it is the responsibility of the private sector to create jobs is a myth, since the private sector by its very nature is there to make profit, has no constitutional responsibility to society for the creation of jobs and have citizens lead productive lives, which is the constitutional responsibility of government. And the government must start discharging their responsibility.
Employment has severely contracted over the last two decades. There has been massive reduction in employment in various sectors, including sugar, bauxite and other the traditional public service, coupled with the ever increasing new entrants into the labour market competing for fewer jobs. The time has come to put society at an acceptable economic level which requires the establishment of a national policy to create the enabling environment to put the nation’s people to work. As we speak of job creation we are speaking of jobs that conform to the standard set by the International Labour Organisation which is to attract income of a livable level, conditions of work that are safe, and respecting of the right of workers to join trade unions.
We take note of the opposition recognition that workers are deserving of increased wages/salaries and improved working conditions. However, we wish to clearly state that any implementation in the absence of agreements which respect the trade union, that act will be seen as a violation of Section 23 of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Law.
The time has come for our politicians to revisit the deviation of the path travelled within recent years and to understand their existence is not for themselves but in service to the people who have placed their confidence in them which is to ensure their humanity is upheld, their interests advanced, their rights protected, and their dreams realized. In this new dispensation there must be an avoidance of the politics of self and working towards the embracement of the politics of service.
Note is taken of Robert Persaud’s statement that he will take a complaint to the international observers that the opposition has exploited racial and ethnic sensitivities as the elections approach. He is urged to go right ahead but in submitting his complaint he must also be prepared to stand up as a man and tell the Observers Mission what has been his role in the process that continues to deny sections of this society what’s rightly theirs. As government minister, PPP leader and Campaign Manager he is the modern architect and initiator of social stigmatization in this elections. It was he who started the name calling when he sought to demonise the large crowd of opposition supporters on Nomination Day trying to get into City Hall with their Leaders to present to GECOM their List of Representatives. He refers to this exuberant group as thugs, hooligans and lawless even as he ignores the fact persons were exercising their right to freedom of assemble, take their politics passionately, the police preparedness or lack thereof to manage the large crowd, and no law was broken. He studied sociology at the University of Guyana and would have been taught the power of stigmatization which ties those stigmatized to: 1) adverse attributes, 2) the establishment a sense of disconnect between “us” and “them” and 3) having established these adverse attributes and unhealthy division it creates for those so stigmatized to be the recipient of “status loss and discrimination” that leads to unequal circumstances (Bruce Link and Jo Phelan). This is an aspect of our history the international observations are asked to pay keen note of since it remains a hindrance to this nation’s holistic development and peaceful co-existence of its diverse inhabitants.
In every society political parties have their ethnic base(s) which are characteristic of human nature, and the group-think around common interest(s) and those who you think can be your best representative(s). Ethnicity, a part of our social formation, is not a bad thing and is so protected in Universal Declarations and our Constitution. Where the ethnic conflicts become unmanageable is when such characteristics are used to justify discrimination and exclusion which remains a fundamental source of our problem in as much as equality, rights, freedoms and opportunities are enshrined for all in our Constitution. The price for peace is justice and the nation must be prepared to pay this price.
You cannot change human behaviour by denying them what’s rightly theirs because you are starting out from a position of disrespect and disregard for man’s social nature to instinctively identify and freely associate, which are features the United Nations have taken into consideration and given respect to in the shaping of declarations that allow us to work together as diverse groups in the interest of our common good. This fact is also enshrined in our Constitution under the banner called the “Objective of [the] political system.” It is time we take them seriously, give meaning to them, and hold those accountable for violating them.
Democracy is about government by the people, of the people, and in service to the people and to make democracy a reality in our society these elements have to be working simultaneously. To this end Labour expects the upholding of the Principal Political Objective of the political system of this society which is to allow meaningful participation by groups in national decision making that impact their wellbeing; rights, liberties and opportunities be upheld and the law hold all accountable. For immediate attention we call on the next Parliament to make parliamentarians more accessible to their constituents by assigning and making public their official email addresses, telephones numbers and business addresses. We call on the next government to forthwith appoint an Ombudsman; the collective parliamentary parities to move to have enabling legislations and other institutional structures to make meaningful the Rights Commissions (Human Rights, Women and Gender Equality, Indigenous, and Child); the functioning of the Constitution Reform Commission; and forthwith make unambiguous Article 182 of the Constitution, which has been abused by this administration in as much as they have all taken an oath to uphold the tenets of the Constitution.