APNU has been ineffective in forcing the government to name a date for local government elections. The government has not flinched in the face of the many picketing exercises undertaken by APNU.
The only reason that the government has entered into talks with APNU is because the government needs to avoid debate and passage of the no-confidence motion which the AFC is tabling in the National Assembly. If the government can seal a deal with APNU on governance issues, then it may avoid the no-confidence motion and even Local Government Elections. Without the threat of the no-confidence motion, Ebola or no Ebola, there would have been no talks between APNU and the government.
It is safe to say, therefore, that the picketing exercises undertaken by APNU have been ineffective. The government has historically been unresponsive to such forms of protests. When the opposition opts for more drastic actions such as marches, these backfire on them.
APNU has failed in its protests for Local Government Elections, because its protests have not signaled to the PPPC the strength of the support within the society for local government polls. Picketing exercises are generally small and are unreflective of the wider support that may exist within society. It is this inability by the opposition to demonstrate widespread support for Local Government Elections and widespread consternation for the non-holding of such elections that have caused the PPPC to dismiss the protests.
APNU has failed to utilize other effective and peaceful means of protests which would have signaled how alienated the government stood by its refusal to set a date for the holding of Local Government Elections.
If APNU was keen to demonstrate the degree of support it enjoys for the holding of
Local Government Elections, instead of picketing exercises, it could have considered calling for a ‘Day of Rest’. This is an effective means of demonstrating support for a cause.
In the heat of the terrible crime wave experienced by this country, this column called for a ‘Day of Rest’ to protest the lack of security faced by citizens. Many businesses were supportive of shutting down the country for one day. In fact, one private sector organization lent its support for such a day.
The government reacted with panic to the call for a ‘Day of Rest’. There was a report that one leading and influential businessman was summoned by a top government official. He was reportedly told in no uncertain manner of the implications of him supporting the ‘Day of Rest’.
Despite the level of political intimidation, there was a fair degree of support for this ‘Day of Rest’. Some businesses closed their doors. Quite a number of minibuses did not operate, but the bulk of the support came from the sugar belt, where workers stayed home in their numbers. The working class, as usual, could always be relied upon to stand up when the rich and powerful were too scared to do so.
We have not since had another ‘Day of Rest’. But Days of Rest remain powerful non-violent means of protesting and one that is grossly underutilized within our society. No dramatics are called for. No great expenses needed in mobilizing people for action. All that is required is for persons to stay home and rest on that day.
Of course many persons have no choice but to attend work, otherwise they will be dismissed. But in Guyana, we have a large private sector, and once sections of it join in the ‘Day of Rest’, the impact can be significant. We also have substantial numbers of self-employed and unemployed persons in the country and once they stay home, the effects of this are clearly evident. The streets are not as heavy with traffic and pedestrians, and things slowly grind to a slow pace and eventually to a halt.
We should be realistic. The country will not shutdown because of a ‘Day of Rest’. But once there is a fair response, economic activity will be affected and this will yield a reaction from the economic class that controls the government. The government, fearful of an eventual total shutdown of the economy, will be forced to be responsive to the demands of the people.
Guyana has now reached a frightening stage of its political development, one in which institutions of the State are being used to target critics of the government. There have long been plans to silence Kaieteur News, but the means used were never as tyrannical as what is now taking place.
It is time for the Guyanese people to signal their revulsion about the attacks on the media, and specifically on the attempts to silence the Kaieteur News and jail its publisher, because of the many scandals that the newspaper continues to reveal.
It is time for Guyana to have a ‘Day of Rest’ against tyranny and especially the use of the public institutions as instruments of political vengeance. Unless this frightening development is checked, no citizen is beyond reach of vindictive and greedy elements within the government.
The people must demonstrate in their numbers their abhorrence of what is taking place. They must engage in creative protests. There should be a ‘Day of Rest’ in protest at what is taking place in our country.
This column proposes that the mechanism of Days of Rest form part of the arsenal of peaceful protests to press for local government elections and an end to the campaign to muzzle the Kaieteur News.
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