GUYANA IS BECOMING AMERICANIZED
Too much television, like too much knowledge, can be a bad thing and more so if the television programming is primarily from one source.
In Guyana television was introduced very late. It was not until the mid 1980s that it came our way and since then the source of most of the programming was from American networks. Apart from the BBC we get very little British programming on local television.
Given this inundation with American television relays, it was inevitable the consumer society values would filter down to Guyana. They are doing so in torrents.
A few years ago, Americans were on a home renovation craze. Families were redoing their kitchens at great cost just to keep up with the trend.
The fad was transferred very quickly to Guyana. Some of the more palatial homes in Guyana can match many of the better homes in New York or Toronto. This is as a result of rapid cultural diffusion brought about by American television.
Politics has not been inoculated from this bug. Increasingly Guyanese and their political parties are following American political practices, seemingly forgetting that we come from a different tradition, the British Westminster tradition, which still informs our political institutions.
A few years ago, there was a call for certain public appointees to have public hearings, similar to what happens in America when top executive appointees have to be grilled about their political philosophy and details of their personal life before being given congressional confirmation to hold public office.
We now have what is known as campaign debates where the various presidential candidates square off in front of an audience and sometimes in front of the cameras. This is now something that we take for granted and which is associated with our elections, just like they are in the USA.
Last year, the opposition introduced its own American adaptation of primaries in order to identify the person to lead the PNCR into national and regional. The system which was put in place was however far removed from the American system of primaries and ended up being highly criticized even though it is still said to be an example of the new wave of democracy that is sweeping the opposition camp.
During the Constitutional Reform process, a new innovation, totally incompatible with the Westminster tradition, but clearly influenced by the American system was introduced into our parliament. The constitution of Guyana was amended to allow for opposition parties to introduce Bills.
This was an aberration because it flies in the face of the separation of powers. In the American Congressional system where there is a distinct separation between the Executive and the Congress, such a system can work since there is a system in which the members of the executive do not sit in Congress.
But under the Westminster system which informs our political traditions and institutions, the members of our executive are also the members of the legislature.
Under the Westminster system it is the executive that brings Bills to the parliament and the legislature that passes these Bills. In the American system, Bills can be introduced in any of the two Houses of Congress by member of Congress.
The executive, therefore, under a Westminster system cannot be hogtied in the same way as under the American system. And if the separation of powers is to be preserved, it means that the legislature should not be allowed to perform executive functions. Therefore any Bills that are introduced and passed have to be consistent with the policy of the government, which would mean that their introduction and passage would require the approval of the government.
If the government hopes to preserve intact the virtue of the separation of powers it cannot entertain the passage of any Bill introduced by the opposition and which does not find the consent of the government.
If the President were to assent to any such Bill, it would mean that he would be allowing the legislature to assume the role of the executive and worse yet allowing the opposition to assume the governance of Guyana. None of these options is tenable under our system of rule.