Hand of friendship

President Dr Irfaan Ali made a very inspiring speech to mark the occasion of Guyana’s 53rd Republic Anniversary. One of the many aspects of his speech is his statement: “My hands remain open for friendship…It remains outstretched to the proposition of unity, to the proposition of hope, and to the dedication of country above self.”
These are words that should appeal to our Opposition parties, more so the main Opposition A Partnership for National Unity – who fundamentally appears unwilling to perform those duties in accordance with the rules and traditions that have historically guided Oppositions to govern their countries, together with the Executive.
In the latter part of December 2020, if one can recall, former President David Granger had declined President Ali’s invitation to meet with all former Presidents to engage in “frank discussions” on national issues.
At the time, many were hoping that the Opposition would have used the opportunity to put national interest in front of party politics, especially considering the events post-March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, which saw an attempt to alter the results of the polls. Since then, the Opposition – from which AFC has divorced itself and now stands on its own – has been functioning in a manner which can be described as haphazard. As this newspaper has done and said before, rather than reinventing the wheel, we will quote extensively from a document issued after a seminar by the “Majority and Minority Parties in African Parliaments”.
“The Opposition in Parliament has a duty to offer voters a credible alternative to the Government in office to make the majority accountable. To be a credible alternative, however, the Opposition must also be ready to exercise the responsibilities to which it aspires on a lasting basis. In other words, it must have a programme which it is ready to implement. In a democracy, political life is enriched by the free competition of political programmes; it is impoverished by rivalry based on personal ambitions, which merely disqualifies it in the eyes of public opinion.
“Moreover, the Opposition in Parliament must show itself to be responsible and be able to act in a statesmanlike manner. It must engage in constructive and responsible opposition by making counter-proposals. In its action, the Opposition must not seek to hinder pointlessly the action of the Government, but rather endeavour to encourage it to improve such action in the general interest.
“The duties of the Opposition are by their very nature defined by political and behavioural rules; not by constitutional norms or parliamentary texts. The duties, therefore, do not require codification. What is required is for the members of the Opposition – like all Members of Parliament – to exercise their responsibilities with due respect for the Constitution and the laws in force. They must, of course, refrain from advocating violence as a means of political expression. Indeed, their action must be in keeping with a spirit of mutual tolerance and a quest for dialogue and concerted action.”
Having examined the above, we hope that the Opposition will see the need to put the country first, above political interests. One may want to believe that most of the Opposition’s supporters may want them to act in a mature and responsible manner.
That said, this level of goodwill by President Ali since taking office shows that he is ready to engage in political dialogue in a more structured and results-oriented manner.
We support President Ali when he said in his Republic Anniversary speech: “Today we stand diverse and beautiful! Shaken but not fallen! Tested but not defeated! The trials of the past can either keep us in its wounds that refuse to heal and lay only an unsettled path, or can strengthen us to a resolute future – where we can remove those wounds, heal the pain, celebrate the victory of the trials, and renew our spirits in the oneness of a country and land that brings with it the glory of prosperity – the beauty of unity and the success of hard work.”