The mid-term elections, slated for November 2nd 2010 in the United States of America (USA), and for which almost hysterical political campaigning is on the way, is a moment for pause, reflection and information gathering about and into democracy and how it works.
All Guyana should pause and reflect on what this democracy is all about. After all politics and the efforts and endeavours of all who enter the political arena and seek political leadership and office must have one objective, which is to improve conditions in the country by creating macro conditions for the improvement of the lives of the persons these politicians represent.
Democracy is not merely one man one vote, but it imposes on all citizens, rights and responsibilities, and in particular the responsibility to police the implementation of what can be called “society’s democratic norms”.
It appears as though Barrack Obama’s Democratic Party is set to lose control of probably both houses of congress, not because of what the democrats have done or have not done, but because of what many perceive to be an angry white backlash.
Many white Americans, including many democrats, cannot come to grips with the fact of a black president of the United States, and that is why for the first time in history a political party that has achieved so much legislatively and otherwise is afraid to run and campaign on those achievements solely because the leader of that party is a black man in a white America.
The principles and good tenets of democracy are taking a back seat, people and organisations with money and the ability to effectively exploit racist emotions are gaining ascendancy in the great USA where modern democracy was spawned.
But Barrack Obama is leading the democrats’ fight back and counter attack. The main plank and the mantra of the counter attack is: “Elections are about choices – a choice between those who are governing and those who want to govern”. For unless those who want to govern are better qualified, have a better programme and can govern more effectively, then making a decision to change a government – any government – on the basis of race and/or ethnicity is not only stupid and counter-productive, but all the progress that the country may have made will be lost in a miasma of trial and error muddling along coupled with the backlash from the so-called displaced governing group.
The parallels for Guyana are glaring. A society that is still generally divided along ethnic lines and where elections are still regarded as ethnic accounting must sit up and take note.
Guyana has had a terrible history of ethnic cleavage and sub-societal internecine warfare. Twenty-eight years of pro-black PNC Administration and 18 years of pro-Indian PPP Administration have left Guyana with some burdensome and negative political stereo types. Listening to the current multitudinous, disparate and un-coordinated rallying cries of the opposition parties, one gets an uncanny feeling of déjà vu.
It is an identical replay of the cries of the opposition political groups in the 70’s and 80’s. And these discordant cries do not address developmental issues or advocate plans and programmes that can improve the lives of their constituents.
What is important for the development of Guyana is for all politicians to understand that the winner takes all West minster style democratic system that Guyana has inherited means just that.
Once you enter the race, it means you abide by the rules and hence the winner or loser must abide for the next five years with the spoils of winning or losing.
Losing means that you aggressively, relentlessly and consistently represent the interest of your constituency (those who voted for you) at the Court of Government, proposing real, simple, practical things that can be done at a village and community levels to better and improve their lives bit by bit. Failure to do so means that your constituency may not develop even-handedly with the rest of the country and in a country like Guyana this forms the basis for complaints of racial and ethnic discrimination in the distribution and allocation of Government controlled resources.
Losing however, does not mean that you must eschew supporting and helping the government in implementing policies and programmes that will help to expand the economic base of the country.
Losing does not mean that the loser suddenly becomes unpatriotic and consistently seeks only to oppose, expose and depose whatever the consequences for the country.
Winning means that the party that won has the constitutional and legal authority to govern for the ensuing five years – govern in the complete sense of the word exclusively and totally, without any reference or adherence to any notion of inclusivity or power sharing – whatever that means? Governing generally means that the legislative branch of government executes the policies and programmes of the executive branch of government. Many pundits, constitutional scholars, so-called social scientists and others may wish that the opposite was true but that is not the way democracy functions in modern day society. When an elected government conceptualizes, plans and implements a project or programme, it commits the entire country and its resources to it. While opposition parties in and out of parliament may argue the merits or demerits of the particular policy or programme, in progressive democracies, once the decision and commitment is made all and sundry are expected to support the policy or programme. (The Skeldon Sugar Factory comes to mind. If it fails all of Guyana loses!)
Once elections are policy and programme based, then ethnic/racial emotions do not come into play. When one examines the political landscape which is Guyana, one has to try very hard to pierce the cacophonic din in order to cull together from statements of the many opposition parties to discern a comprehensive and strategic development plan with which they may wish to replace the current one. A level headed and unemotional examination of the current plans and programmes of the Jagdeo Administration will find many programmes and projects that can single-handedly transform Guyana’s economic base. They are well known but let me list a few:
1. Construction of a hydro-electric power generation facility
2. Implementation of a Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS)
3. Government’s aggressive push to ensure the harnessing and exploitation of our hydro-carbon resources.
When the history of Guyana would have been written, one would be hard put to rationalise the absence of support by all Guyanese for the implementation and success of these three programmes. Each of them on their own, when successfully implemented will transform Guyana’s economic base and change the way we do business in this country. These are long term projects and any ensuing government that fiddles or tinkers with, or abandons them will be doing Guyana an immeasurable disservice. On the basis of these three projects alone, I will support the continuation of the Jagdeo Administration’s governance of Guyana for the next five years.
It would be in Guyana’s interest for Guyana’s opposition political parties and others to explain to the Guyanese people why they oppose these projects and if they will replace them, what they will replace them with. If their argument is that they can implement these projects better than the Jagdeo Administration then they must say so and say how.
If I were to conceive, plan and implement a political campaign for the re-election of the Jagdeo Administration in 2011, I will do so effectively using the three above named projects as the main planks for my manifesto and campaign. The histrionics, mobilization along ethnic lines and negative name calling will take a backseat or no seat at all in this upcoming electioneering season.
I live in Linden Region Ten, and quite recently I have noticed some verbal fencing in the media between the Regional Chairman and one of his councillors. While their interventions in the realm of developmental issues in Linden and Region 10 were barely skirted, these are issues that need to be addressed and need to be addressed now. I shall enjoin these gentlemen, for the development of Linden and Region Ten is a very personal and passionate issue for me and it cannot be separated from these three above mentioned programmes.
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