The Guyanese people must demand freedom and democracy
The Philip Moore burial controversy has struck a raw nerve. The more you think of it, the more the picture becomes clear as a sunny day on a tropical afternoon when the sun is in its fiery mood – We live in a totalitarian society.
The central government has jurisdiction in everything. And when it doesn’t, it invents methods to dissolve the restriction. The most graphic examples are the salary of the Chief Justice and the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC).
Because he is acting as Chief Justice, it was not possible for the Chief Justice to get a pay as if he were a confirmed judge. That was taken care of by parliamentary legislation. When the life of the ERC ended, it needed a two-thirds parliamentary vote to prolong its legal life. A motion to keep it going was passed by a simple majority.
There are literally hundreds of deep-seated sociological and political caricatures like these, in which restrained power unties itself. The nastiest is the devolution of municipal authority.
This writer contends that in no other country you can have the political caricature like the castration of the Region Four election. Since 1992, there have been five general elections involving a regional vote to elect the government of each of the ten regions. Not once in those five times did the PPP win Region Four. Yet, the PPP decides who the Regional Executive Officer is and how much the Region Four budget will be.
I posit that in no other country that brazen approach to unrestrained power would have gone unprotested for twenty years. To add insult to injury, there is the situation in Georgetown, where an opposition victory in the municipal elections means absolutely nothing. The Georgetown City Council has no legal independence.
Yet, there was a municipal vote, and citizens of Georgetown chose their local government. When I was small I heard my parents and other elder relatives using the term, “Pick sense out of nonsense.”
Many times when my mom and dad or older siblings were quarreling, I would hear the exclamation, “why don’t you pick sense from nonsense?”
Why don’t we do that here and maybe we will see how dishonest are organizations like the Private Sector Commission (PSC), the Chamber of Commerce etc?
There is a stalemate between the opposition and the ruling party over local government reform. Surely, it is not complicated physics that the population cannot understand.
What important stakeholders need to do is to dialogue with the opposition parties and the PPP and ask a simple question – what is the PPP point that you cannot accept and conversely what is the opposition point that you cannot accept? A high-ranking diplomat left this country with the parting statement to me that the ruling party does not want a democratic local government structure.
So let us pick sense out of nonsense. The opposition is saying two things. One is that there must be a law that insulates elected local government officials from the intervention of the central authorities. This is the pattern worldwide. European mayors are powerful people, especially in France.
Secondly, these elected people must have legal independence over their budget, which includes the right to realize revenue through their own projects. Local government elections have stalled for more than fifteen years because the PPP representatives in the talks are inflexibly rejecting legal autonomy and the right to raise revenue. The Guyanese people must demand this intransigence from the PPP be stopped.
Take another example of totalitarian power – the Philip Moore burial quarrel. Surely, it is obnoxious in a modern world where these kinds of decisions rest with the President alone. Why should the President of a country decide where national heroes are to be buried? There must be two objections to this. One is that he must have other important things to do. Secondly, why put this kind of authority in the hand of one person only?
What the Philip Moore burial farce should do for us is to instruct us that there is urgent need for a broad-based committee to make these decisions. And by broad-based, I mean really inclusive, that takes in a representative from all other sources except the political parties and government. So the list should include the churches, academic community, Labour, the media, business community, organizations like the Lions, Jaycees etc.
If we had such an entity, it would have decided if Philip Moore was qualified as a brilliant patriot to have his soul rest at the Seven Ponds. In the end, the decision was made by totalitarian power.