Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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National Development Strategy
(Aired 23 June 2002)

     A few nights ago I was listening to Mr. Christopher Ram interviewing two PNC MP's, and one of those MP's said something that caught my attention. It was that the PPP seem to be operating day by day without any national plan whatsoever. It is NOT so, the Jimmy Carter foundation spent millions of US dollars putting together what was called the National Democratic Strategy, it was a document sponsored by the Carter Center and civil society and was submitted to the government in 2000, with the understanding that it would be tabled in the National Assembly for implementation, to put our country on a true democratic track.

    It never really was, since it was tabled in the parliament but no attempt was ever made to implement any of its very important provisions, thereby showing clearly that they, the PPP, had no intention of implementing it. It is now obviously collecting dust somewhere in the office of the president, the national assembly or maybe somewhere even more unsavory.

     This government is perpetuating itself in power day by day dealing with emergencies raised by the economic, corruption, social ills, and other situations, which they have brought on themselves and notwithstanding the National Development Strategy's recommendations which was apparently only window dressing for the 2001 election, have implemented no long term plan to salvage anything that may benefit the Guyanese people.

    So I decided to look again at the National Development Strategy [NDS] which was prompted and financed by the Carter Center and which was published in the year 2000, just before the 2001 elections, telling us what we must do to improve our Economic and social situation over the next 10 years.

     The first thing we find in the introduction of this NDS document is the following "Guyana's constitution is largely based on the Westminster model which does not embrace inclusitivy in governance as one of its main characterists, there has been little or no meeting of the minds between the two powerful political parties [PPP.C/PNC.R] on any major political social or economic issue, since Guyana became independent, on the contrary, confrontation of every sort and form, has been the norm.

    It is evident however that if Guyana is to attain even a modicum of development in the next 10 years or so, it is essential that a number of decisions, that are based on intelligent, objective discussions, and consultations between these two major political forces be made.

   So ladies and gentlemen the National Development Strategy tells us that as an important prerequisite to our development, it is IMPORTANT to settle the differences between the PPP and the PNC or the entire strategy will be irrelevant. The NDS puts it this way and I quote "unfortunately there is very little that a national development strategy can do about such matters except to make specific recommendations for more inclusivity in government, for greater participation in the decision making process. It also calls for increased observance of the principles and tenets which would prevail in a society which cherishes law and order, for greater respect for human rights, and more openness in government

    Now I had expected to have to go through this NDS in some detail to show that none of the goals we have set in it have been met. Because none have been met after 2 years 2000-2002.

    But in reading it again, I find this huge impediment identified in the INTRODUCTION to the process of development of the country, which this very government and the Carter center purported to recognize as important pre requisites for our development, and I discover that this is exactly where we seem to be bogged down, and is contributing to the confusion and lack of progress in the country.

    It is very specifically stated in the NDS that no development can flow from it, until the PPP/C and the PNC/R sit down and decide how they will run the country with inclusion, cooperation and consultation between them.

     I have said this too many times to go over it again, but I am going to do it anyway, it says here clearly in this NDS that there must be inclusion in the decision making process, it says clearly there must be meaningful dialog, it says clearly that there must be cooperation and openness, it says we must cherish the tenets that allow law and order to flourish. It says that the system has to change and that some powers have to be given up, for anything to make sense, and for there to be progress.

   We can't have a country which is like a rowing boat with almost half of the rowers rowing north and the other half rowing south, and that is exactly what we have been doing for nearly 40 years. Is everyone blind? We are going nowhere!

    The dialog was the first step, but that has broken down and shows very little chance of restarting, with the PPP leveling accusations of terrorism on the PNC/R and the PNC/R leveling accusations of bad faith on the PPP.

    Now I have little doubt that President Bharrat Jagdeo is willing to engage in the process of dialog but is the PPP ready to yield any of the enormous powers enshrined in the executive, the answer is NO. They want to continue, the incompetence, the corruption and the exclusion for their own individual benefits, and to hell with the country.

     It is time to investigate the results of this dialog so far, and to establish whether there has been bad faith and by whom. So we must get three Guyanese of impeccable reputation and scholarship to form a tribunal and tell us what happened and why? I think that since the Carter Center and civil society initiated this NDS, it should be they who must investigate it. Surely the Americans would be interested in where this dialog fell apart, and why, since it is the Carter center, to which the PPP rushes for help every time they are in trouble, which financed the study and supported the recommendations that it contained.

    The NDS tells us and I quote it again "The united nations has defined governance as the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country's affairs. Good Governance is characterized by participation, Transparency, accountability, effectiveness, equity and strict adherence to the rule of law".

    We also find the following and I quote again "the term equity speaks for itself it, since it implies that an essential element of good governance is that all citizens should be treated justly, without partiality; that no group, or race, or religion, or class, should be discriminated against or be given special privileges. The final concept is that of the rule of law. The basic features of this fundamental aspect of good governance are that 1. The law must prevail over all persons, and all institutions, including even the government 2. Citizens must be shielded from arbitrary and unlawful acts by other persons and by the state 3. There must be equal treatment under the law and everyone should be subject to the law. Judges and magistrates it tells us should be appointed by a two thirds vote in the parliament.

   In a previous commentary I had quoted the report of the British judges Baker and Lewis, we have 9 superior court judges, we need at least 18, twice that amount, we have 4 appeal court justices we need at least 6, the legal system is being starved for finances in this country and the registrar of our supreme court stands charged with contempt. To all intents and purposes there is no rule of law, or democracy, members of the executive are interfering on a daily basis with our judicial system with impunity, and no one can do anything to stop them. What makes them immune from the rule of law? I have now given the public at least 35 cases of public officials whose actions warrant them being charged with misdemeanor in public office. None have been so charged, so at this time I am forced to state that the PPP and the PNC for that matter, are not and have not been subjected to the rule of law in this country since 1980, and their officials have broken the law daily with impunity before 1992 and even more outrageously after 1992, despite the PPP's hypocritical claims of a new age of democracy and transparency.

     The NDS contain these words in large capital letters at the bottom of page seven under Governance and I quote it because it is important "it is now generally accepted that there can be little lasting and sustainable social and economic development in the absence of good governance, this is true for all societies, it is especially true however for multi racial societies such as Guyana in which obsessions with ethnic origins transcends policies, plans, strategies and performance" That is the tragedy of the Guyana situation ladies and gentlemen, apparently none of these things mean anything to our people. we have to come together as a nation and demand good governance, all of us, regardless of race, regardless of who is in power, it is our democratic right.