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Govt ready to work with political parties, not abusers of public institutions- Granger

President David Granger addressing Parliament (FILE PHOTO)

President David Granger, in his New Year’s message, said his  government was ready to work with political parties to bridge divides, but he said there was no place for vulgar and abusive behaviour.

“We extend open arms of friendship to all political parties, social organisations and religious groups to collaborate in order to contribute to creating a more cohesive society,” the Guyanese leader said.

Political parties over the decades have been known to make public overtures of unity or closer cooperation, but little has borne fruit.

In apparent reference to the opposition People’s Progressive Party’s parliamentarians’ chanting and placarding while he was addressing Parliament on November 2, 2017, President Granger again signalled his displeasure at the event in the Chamber of Public Buildings. “We shall continue to work with all sectors and strata of society to improve our political culture and promote inclusiveness. We must repudiate vulgarity. We must rebuke those who abuse our public institutions and reject the poisonous politics of the past,” he said.

Granger has already described the opposition legislators as “vulgarians” in an address to conference of  the North American Chapter of his People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), the largest and most influential political party in the governing coalition. The PPPC has justified its action, saying that it was aimed at registering its objection to Granger’s rejection of Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo’s 18 nominees for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission and instead unilaterally appointing Retired Justice James Patterson who is regarded in some circles as pro-PNCR.

The President also made good on his pledge to announce on January 1, 2018 the establishment of the Guyana Youth Corps. “Young people, through the new Guyana Youth Corps, will be receive training in skills to convert their ideas and energy into economic enterprises.  We will work with workers in all industries – especially bauxite, sugar and timber – to seek access to alternative employment,” he said.

Guyanese from all walks of life have been clamouring for the re-establishment of the Guyana National Service (GNS), a paramilitary organisation, that had absorbed thousands of youths in the 1970s and 1980s, trained them in a variety of skills and exposed them to remote pristine areas of the country.

However, detractors have expressed concern that the return of the GNS could be viewed as an attempt to re-militarise the State by a government several of whose top functionaries have historical ties to the military and wider security sector.

Following is the full text of President David Granger’s New Year’s Message.

Guyanese,

Happy new year!  Guyanese greet the dawn of 2018 feeling good about themselves, their children, their communities and their country.

Guyanese have inherited and inhabit a beautiful, bountiful and blissful country – a land that is celebrated in the words of our beloved National Anthem, as the “Green Land’:

…of rivers and plains; [m]ade rich by the sunshine, and lush by the rains; [set] gem-like and fair, between mountains and sea.”

Guyana, indeed, is a gem-like, luxuriant land – of grasslands, highlands, islands, wetlands, lakes, mangroves, mudflats, rainforests, rivers and waterfalls. We are happy in our homeland.

We shall protect our heritage, which is every citizen’s birthright, and bequeath this endowment to future generations.

We signified, in the year 2016, that the year 2017 would be spent in setting the settlement of the unlawful and unreasonable claims to our country’s territory on a definite course. The United Nations Secretary General, in 2018, is expected to discharge his commitment to setting that course in a manner consistent with justice and international law.

We shall continue to defend every ‘blade of grass’ of our homeland.  We shall never cede a centimetre of territory or compromise a tittle of sovereignty. 

Guyana is changing for good. We are promoting the good life for all. We are reducing divisions and maximizing cohesion.  We are protecting our patrimony, pursuing economic prosperity, promoting respect for national institutions and providing better public services and improved human safety.

We are building a country of which everyone can be proud.

We shall continue to work with all sectors and strata of society to improve our political culture and promote inclusiveness. We must repudiate vulgarity. We must rebuke those who abuse our public institutions and reject the poisonous politics of the past.

We shall continue to work to eradicate the inequalities and disabilities which foster destitution and discrimination.  We are creating a more equal society – one with greater opportunities and a higher quality of life for all.

We extend open arms of friendship to all political parties, social organisations and religious groups to collaborate in order to contribute to creating a more cohesive society.

We shall continue to work to provide greater social protection for everyone, particularly our women, children, the elderly and persons in difficult circumstances.

We did increase the minimum wage for the lowest-paid state employees by nearly 50 percent; we increased old-age pensions by almost 50 per cent; we increased social assistance by 27 per cent, all in only thirty months.  We will ensure that the disadvantaged are protected.

We shall continue to work empower local government organs so that they can bring improvements to communities. Local democracy will be renewed in local and municipal elections in 2018.

We declared three new ‘capital towns’ last year to expedite enterprise and economic development in their respective regions by increasing investment and generating employment.

The surge in agro-processing, artisanal manufacturing and cottage industries seen in the regional agricultural and commercial exhibitions, is evidence of the green shoots of healthy grass-root economic growth.

Our hinterland, rural, riverine and village economies are being strengthened through support for micro- , small and medium-sized enterprises.

Young people, through the new Guyana Youth Corps, will be receive training in skills to convert their ideas and energy into economic enterprises.  We will work with workers in all industries – especially bauxite, sugar and timber – to seek access to alternative employment.

We shall continue to work towards making the country safer for all by improving citizens’ security. Security sector reform being undertaken with support from our international partners, aims at creating safer communities and protecting the people from transnational threats such as illegal narcotics-, firearms- and people-trafficking.

We are building a country in which everyone can be safe.

We shall continue to improve the delivery of public services by ensuring that citizens have easier access to education, electricity, health, housing, information, recreation, sanitation, sports and pure water supply services.

We shall continue to improve the delivery of birth, death, immigration and marriage registration and passport and pension services.

Life is getting better, year by year. Guyanese have lots of reasons to feel good about their homeland in 2018!

A Happy New Year to all!