Inclusive governance not dead – President Ali, citizens everywhere making it happen

Ralph Ramkarran, former Speaker of Parliament, once Chair of the Constitutional Commission, and now the leader of ANUG, in his Conversation Tree commentary this past week declared inclusive governance dead because Aubrey Norton, other leaders of the PNC, and a handful of persons arbitrarily claiming leadership roles for Afro-Guyanese, such as David Hinds, have demanded that only a share of the Government meets their definition of inclusive governance. PNC leaders and those who arrogantly claim leadership roles for Afro-Guyanese have essentially rejected the notion of inclusive governance in their demand to be fully or partly of Government.
Reasonable persons understand Ralph’s justifiable pessimism. However, politicians are not the only stakeholders in inclusive governance; people elect representatives to serve in the Government and the Opposition, and expect their elected representatives to work together for the most optimal form of democracy to prevail. When these representatives abrogate their responsibilities, as mandated by the Constitution, then people must craft their own path towards inclusive governance.
Article 13 of the Constitution and Government’s direct approach to the people provide such opportunities. The Youth Advisory Council is an example of how President Ali and the Government are utilising mechanisms the Constitution provides under Article 13 for inclusive governance. An examination of the Youth Advisory Council shows that the members are from across the political, racial, cultural and religious spectrum.
Guyana’s Constitution does not mandate shared governance, but provides abundant opportunities for inclusive governance. While further strengthening of the Constitution can promote inclusive governance, the present Constitution already enticingly provides a rich platform for inclusive governance. The opportunities in the present Constitution were created jointly by political parties and civil society between 1999 and 2001. More than 200 amendments to the Burnham 1980 Constitution were made, using recommendations from the Constitutional Commissions established by Cheddi Jagan in 1994 and Janet Jagan in 1998.
Ralph played a pivotal role in those reform efforts, and led the Commission from 1998 to 2000. It is his commission that submitted a formal report to the then PPP Government, which was unanimously approved by the Parliament. It is that broadly consultative Constitutional Reform Commission Report, with hundreds of recommendations, that was then used to formulate a number of constitutional reform acts that led to more than 200 amendments to the Burnham 1980 Constitution between 1999 and 2001, all of which had the common thread of inclusive governance. But the PNC’s open distaste for inclusive governance, and their obsession with total control of Government have sabotaged these constitutional goals.
It is the PNC who demanded shared governance between 1992 and 2006 with “slo’ fyah, mo’ fyah” protests. Yet, not only did they not pursue shared governance once they were the Government between 2015 and 2020, they even abandoned the constitutional provisions for inclusive governance, and even tried in 2020 to steal the Government. Now that they are back in Opposition, they have rediscovered the necessity for shared governance. But the PNC has a history of nothing less than total control of Government and a propensity for dictatorial rule. They used the UF in 1964 and the AFC in 2015 to take control of Government, and then made those political parties their poodles. The PNC and those who purport to speak for Afro-Guyanese will always cry discrimination as long as they are not in control of Government. This reality drove Ralph to his conviction and well-placed pessimism that inclusive governance is dead.
Given the PNC’s recalcitrance, President Irfaan Ali and the PPP Government have chosen to form a coalition directly with the people. Most of the belligerent spokespersons who claim they speak on behalf of Afro-Guyanese do not even live in Guyana, and do not dare run in an election, because they know they cannot field a slate or cannot win enough votes to fill their living rooms. The PNC, with a significant support base among Afro-Guyanese, has used this clout to make demands. But Government can also use the opportunity to persuade those who support the PNC that the PNC is not working in their interest, and that the PNC is betraying them. As daunting as this task is, it is not impossible.
President Irfaan Ali is making a valiant attempt at pushing inclusive governance through direct engagement with the people. This by itself will not optimise inclusive governance. This in itself will not erase the constant fake allegations of discrimination. However, if President Ali can get people in the communities to work with him, and if the people by overwhelming majority at the next elections show they are ready to work for inclusive governance, then the politicians who are resisting inclusive governance will be left on the sidelines. House lots, better education and health, jobs, better infrastructure while engaging people directly is a recipe for inclusive governance.
Youth, women, disability, sports, cultural, religious organisations, local government representatives, small business owners, the Chambers of Commerce, farmers, miners, loggers, fisherfolks, professionals are being engaged and allowed to represent themselves, since the Opposition refuses to represent them in accordance with constitutional mandates. Giving life to Article 13, President Ali and the Cabinet complete more community outreaches in a month than President Granger and APNU/AFC did in five years. People have opportunities to represent themselves, even in remote villages. Who says there is only one way to peel a coconut?