No greater moment for us to stand as one – President Ali tells 12th Parliament
– “One Guyana Commission” to be launched
– reassures of Govt’s commitment to fulfil manifesto promises
By Vahnu Manikchand
With Guyana on the cusp of massive transformation in the coming years, President Dr Irfaan Ali on Thursday stressed that the prosperity of this new economic era cannot happen without national unity and the collective effort of all stakeholders.
The Head of State made this remark during his inaugural address to the 12th Parliament at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), where sittings are being held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Ali told Members of Parliament (MPs) that they are being looked at – both the Government and the Opposition – to see whether they will serve the people’s interests faithfully, deliver good governance and accountability, and strive to make their lives better, as was promised.
Noting that Guyanese elected the parties represented in the Assembly, the President called for national unity among all stakeholders, regardless of political affiliation.
“[The people] want us to be partners in serving the country, not adversaries in pulling it apart. That is not to say that they did not expect us to disagree, or that they did not anticipate that we would differ. But they do not expect us to differ at their expense, or to disagree to their detriment,” he noted.
However, the Head of State noted that, in order to take the country to a haven of progress, prosperity and peace, there needs to be political maturity that puts, at all times, the national interest and the people’s welfare above everything else.
“There has never been a greater moment when we, as Guyanese, need to stand as one to secure the benefits of our natural resources and to protect our sovereignty – the right to make decisions in our national interest – and our territorial integrity… Stop being defined by race. Stop being defined by politics. Start being defined by our one nationality and by our common love for our one country. Let us lift it up together and, by doing so, let us lift up each other and ourselves as ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny’,” the President posited.
Despite the Head of State’s calls for Guyanese to stand as one in the interest of the country, the APNU/AFC Opposition Members boycotted his inaugural address to the Parliament.
Nevertheless, President Ali pointed out that the credo and vision of his Government is “nation building” and oneness and inclusion.
Establishment of One Guyana Commission
To this end, he announced the establishment of a ‘One Guyana Commission’ to be headed by Prime Minister retired Brigadier Mark Phillips. The President disclosed that the Prime Minister will soon introduce an Act in the National Assembly to this effect.
This Commission will seek to undertake the practical steps to cement the ‘one society’ approach, encompassing and respecting the diversity from which Government’s “oneness” springs.
“The work of the Commission would be countrywide, and it would listen to the free expressions of all voices concerning ways in which every Guyanese can honour their ancestral heritage while giving the highest regard to our blended Guyanese civilisation,” the Head of State noted.
Among the matters that the Commission would address, the President added, are education on the country’s history; religions; ensuring equal opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship; and the institutional strengthening of the existing Ethnic Relations Commission to make it more effective.
Moreover, President Ali contended that Guyana has, for too long, been held ransom to the ambitions of partisan politics and the narrowness of partisan ambition. As such, he noted that it is time to set those two impostors aside and embrace the patriotic duty towards the country and its people – something which he says his Government has already done.
“We are at a decisive moment in our history, with a greater opportunity than previous Parliaments to make our country a better place than it has ever been. This is the honour and the challenge that time and events have laid at our door. We must – each of us – live up to it. The people of Guyana expect us to not spend our time squabbling and bickering. They want us to find common ground on which we can build a nation in which they are safe and their children’s future is secure.
I pledge myself to that task, and I urge every representative in the National Assembly to join me in striving for its fulfilment,” Ali implored.
Fulfilling manifesto promise
The Head of State’s address to Parliament comes on the heels of today’s presentation of the 2021 National Budget – his administration’s second budget in just five months since taking office.
Without pre-empting the much-anticipated Budget presentation, President Ali went on to outline insights of his administration’s development plan, and targets that will be pursued over the next five years in fulfillment of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s manifesto.
These include, but are not limited to, infrastructure transformation, human resources development, expansion of the energy and technology sectors, as well as improved social services.
“We will support businesses, we will support the Private Sector, we will support workers. Let me be clear: every single worker, public sector worker; whether you are nurses, doctors, members of the judiciary, I assure you (that) by the end of our fifth year, not only will you be better off from a salary perspective, but the benefits, the society in which you live, and the services that will be delivered to you would enable you to live a good life, a great life in Guyana,” he asserted.
According to President Ali, “There is no end to the manifesto tasks that lie ahead, for there is no end to the efforts we must make for the homeland.”