When there is a national crisis, as in an invasion threat to and annexation of a country, government and opposition, supported by civil society, tend to come together thinking of and planning common strategies to counter the peril. Guyana faces a very serious threat to its physical territory from western neighbor Venezuela. Both government and opposition hold a common position to oppose Venezuela’s claim to our territory. The government and opposition unanimously passed a resolution in parliament holding such a common position.
The elected government (party) runs the affairs of the nation by virtue of winning the election. It makes and implements policies. It engages other nations and conducts foreign policy. Those are its legitimate constitutional powers. But it also has a constitutional requirement to engage the opposition and it does although historically the opposition is ignored regardless of which party ran the country. The ruling party is not required to consult with opposition on all policies and certainly not on foreign policy. President Ali does not have to seek advice from the opposition on Venezuela policy as he is constitutionally empowered to engage with other countries and international institutions. Thus, Ali is commended for informing the opposition that he has been invited by the leader of St Vincent Mr Gonsalves to enter into talks with Maduro of Venezuela and President Lula of Brazil at a summit in Kingstown next Thursday. He has rightly sought opposition support. Now is not the time for party partisanship. Opposition forces are with the government.
In order to maintain a strong unified position against Venezuela, it is always good to consult with, engage, and seek ideas or views from the opposition and civic society and even the diaspora on how to respond to this serious threat. The government does not have to accept or implement advice from the opposition or civic society or diaspora but can listen and analyze ideas or proposals and then give consideration or reject accordingly. Unity must be the objective. Meaningfully engage the opposition, civic society, and diaspora will project to the enemy and the world that the Guyanese are unshaken in their unity and opposition to the external threat posed by Venezuela.
Our country is deeply divided politically and ethnically. We must not bury our divisions under the proverbial carpet. The Venezuela threat provides a unique opportunity to bring the various people and forces together and reduce political and ethnic tensions. The Venezuelan threat has the potential to heal the nation from the wounds of divisive politics and ethnic tensions inflicted during the five months of attempts to influence the election outcome in 2020. We must bury our differences and come together as a nation to combat the foreign threat.
This can be achieved, for lack of a better term, through a kind of establishment of a holding committee of forces that represent all our people — ethnic, political, labor, intellectual, grass roots, legal, etc. — to discuss and analyze the Venezuela threat and propose immediate responses as we await the ICJ ruling. The establishment of such a strong coalition of forces, a kind of a think thank, that is comprised of government, opposition, and civic society of intellectuals, scholars, political people, labor, diaspora, etc. to engage in deep thinking and discussion on the threat and suggested solutions will strengthen our response to Venezuela. Ideas and proposals from non ruling forces, civic society scholars in particular, can only help to improve our position against Venezuela. Bipartisanship is the objective of the hour. Two and more brains are better than one. Bringing people representing varied interests and groups will best serve the nation during this crisis.
Government or ruling party is not required and does not have to listen to anyone who is not from the ruling side or from civic society or from the diaspora. But unity is in the national interest. Taking the confidence of non ruling politicians and non government civic forces will strengthen the hand of the ruling side to confront Venezuela and show the world we are a united people.