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Private Sector has no monopoly on rights- GTUC’s Lincoln Lewis

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has to stop thinking and acting as though it possesses the authority on people’s rights. The call made for years by sections of society to have the constitutionally guaranteed local government elections, is a matter of right. Rights are non-negotiable.

This society is being conditioned to think that some can enjoy their rights at will, while others can only enjoy them with the permission or approval of another. This wrong outlook will not secure and respect universal principles which are underpinned in the Guyana Constitution. What this outlook has done is created a dual society that has allowed the administration and its cohorts to run roughshod over the masses and plunder the nation’s resources. In this environment might has replaced right and the rule of the lawless has replaced the rule of law.

The PSC cannot straddle the fence on matters of rights or cherry-pick rights. You are either for rights or against rights. When the PSC along with others, including the Guyana Trades Union Congress and the Western Diplomatic Community signed petitions calling on the administration to hold Local Government Elections, these calls were underpinned by what the constitution guarantees to the people. And if after two decades the administration, with whom the PSC enjoys cozy relations, refuses to uphold the constitution the failure of the PSC at this juncture to part company with its political ally on a matter of universal principle, brings into question its sincerity in the first instance.

There are some in this society who are using their position of influence/power to create an uneven playing field and establish double standards as the norm. For this society to function effectively and efficiently all must be held to the same standards and play by the same rules. It must never be by chance the people in the urban areas cannot enjoy what’s rightly theirs (i.e. the right to public assemble/protest as outlined in Article 146 of the constitution) because a section (i.e. the urban-based business) feels their economic wellbeing is threatened. The constitution guarantees the economic wellbeing of every individual and business, equally as it guarantees the rights of every citizen and group. None must be allowed to violate another.  

Nothing in life has ever been won or achieved without a struggle. Nothing.  The business community did not evolve on the landscape and secure laws to protect its interest without a struggle. And if the present corps within this community has found measures to protect its interest without having to resort to public assemble, it gives this group no right to deny those who believe that their wellbeing can only be advanced and protected through such measure.

The time is always right to engage in matters relating to the respect for rights and laws. For the PSC urban-based Guyanese must always give up their right to public assemble because of their perception that their economic interest will be affected. It matters not to them that their workers’ and customers’ well-being are equally hinged to their economic interest and the nation’s overall benefit. This nation and its people are being robbed of what’s rightly theirs by the myopic and self-serving in our midst.

If the PSC is genuine in its call for local government elections, respect for the constitution and the rights of the people regardless of whom they are or are represented by, then this body must work with the police to ensure any public assemble is insulated from those who seek such events to engage in dastardly acts. The PSC, like other progressive business entities around the world, must also call on the administration to ensure the safety, security and protection of those who seek to exercise their right as guaranteed by the constitution and which ought to be protected by the state.

Any public assemble, be it for local government elections, industrial matters or otherwise, must be guaranteed and protected. No section of this society must be allowed to think it has the prerogative to determine for others when they will or will not enjoy or exercise a right, in pursuant of their interest. It is in the PSC’s long term interest and this nation’s as a whole, when persons can stand up and be counted to have the laws of this land respected and the rights of the citizens safeguarded. These matters are sacrosanct and there must be no recoiling in the dogged pursuit to have them upheld.