Pull Quote: “We call on the two major political leaders and parties to put the interest of Guyana on the table, to surrender their narrow goals, and to use the division of spoils as the basis of an immediate agreement of a joint government, based on the verified results of the 2020 elections.”
“We call on the two major political leaders and parties to put the interest of Guyana on the table, to surrender their narrow goals, and to use the division of spoils as the basis of an immediate agreement of a joint government, based on the verified results of the 2020 elections.”
That is the essence of a joint statement by political activists, Moses Bhagwan and Eusi Kwayana, as they called for the formation of a government of national unity out of the chaos that has followed the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections.
They said that though the situation has so far escalated, it remains possible for the country’s leaders to find a mutually agreeable solution, no matter the outcome in the courts, the final declaration of results by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), or the signing off by the local, regional and international observers on the credibility of the electoral process.
“If nothing else, the events of the past week have underlined forcefully that regardless of who wins under this current winner take all system, Guyana as a whole loses. A seat one way or the other, a margin of victory one way or the other, will not solve this dilemma.”
After the close of polls, a series of events transpired across the country, including messages of condemnation to
GECOM, and violent clashes between protestors and police.
“Until the system changes, whoever wins, Guyana loses,” the activists warned.
“We simply cannot continue to kick the can down the road for yet another five years. Postponing the problem will not make it disappear… It is a system that guarantees that most Guyanese, starting with those most vulnerable among us, will always be shut out.”
They noted that this is a proposal that is not original, but that has been espoused by political leaders of old, including leaders of both the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), and the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), a major partner in the governing coalition.
They said that, “Following the breakdown of constitutional talks in London in the early 1960s, the leader of the PNC responded to the suggestion proposed by the United Nations anti-colonial committee for a PPP-PNC coalition to resolve the conflict, indicating that he would only agree on the condition of parity. It was a position that was not initially favoured by the PPP but members would later agree, with no less than the leader of the PPP becoming one of the foremost advocates of this position.”
Though this had not materialized, Bhagwan and Kwayana said that Guyana’s current leaders can show integrity and humility, and enter into talks to establish a national government on the principle of parity.
They said that the negotiations must be consistent with the Constitution. Furthermore, it is a suggestion of the two that the winner of the election takes the presidency, while the prime ministerial candidate comes from the other major party, and a collective cabinet be appointed.
The activists said that such a compromise will allow MPs the benefit of voting against the government, thereby fostering greater opportunities for accountability and resisting herd mentality.
“This breathing space can be an opportunity to take a collective breath, and importantly provide an opportunity for our political leaders to work together on common issues. We do not anticipate that this will be easy. We call for it because it is precisely under such conditions of extreme political polarisation and mistrust that the hard but urgent and necessary work of healing for nation building is called for.”
They said that they have been following the events with “deep sadness and alarm”. The statement notes how many lives have been disrupted, causing a sense of fear and mistrust to creep into the population.
Adding to the already flooded field of statements of concern about the finalization of the electoral process, Bhagwan and Kwayana called for the major political leaders to put Guyana’s interest at the forefront, and to jointly call for peace and an end to violence or threat of violence and intimidation.
In commenting directly on the electoral process, the two activists registered the need for the spirit of the Representation of the People Act to be respected. They said it is fortunate that the international observers are here, as they “evaluate any claims of evidence of illegality in the elections process”.
They maintain that illegalities in elections must be condemned by “umpires”. However, they also condemn any attempts to use disruptive tactics to enforce their will.
“All these actions, as well as alleged misconduct by authorized officials, contribute to divisions and chaos in the society.”
The topic of shared or inclusive governance coming out of Constitutional reform had briefly entered public discourse in 2019, in the period leading up to the March elections, and was espoused by leaders of the PPP as well as the governing coalition. However, the proposals did not take precedence in the manifestos of those parties.