The constitutionally-protected right and duty to vote allows eligible Guyanese to play a meaningful role in determining who will manage the affairs of government that will impact their lives and family. This right must be zealously guarded and utilised when required. Tomorrow this nation goes to the polls to elect a cadre of leaders to manage the affairs in the villages and wards.
Local Government Elections, considered the grassroots democracy, is the first/base tier of government and the closest citizens get to interact with their leaders, because they are from within the community. Candidates will be hired or rehired, some fired and others rejected. In exercising the right to vote, the power is being deployed, through the ballot, to determine who is best suited for the job to manage our affairs for the next three years.
To not vote is an abrogation of duty and disregard for a right that was fought for and achieved through blood, sweat and tears. Not voting denies the opportunity to determine how the rates and taxes, required to be paid by law, are managed and who are considered best suited to manage same. Your vote is your voice and when voices are resoundingly registered, they not only serve in electing persons, but also holding them to account for the day-to-day management of your affairs.
Local government presents the opportunity to shape the village and town economies, impacting the standard of living and quality of life within the communities, inclusive of relationship with our neighbours. A major advantage of the local government communities is the allowing for the forging and deepening of relationships across diversity. For instance, I’m within the Buxton-Foulis Neighbourhood Democratic Council, which represents Guyanese from various ethnic backgrounds.
There are communities within this local authority, such as Melanie and Enterprise, where Africans (predominantly in Melanie) and East Indians (predominantly in Enterprise) exist side by side. A principal philosophy that went into the configuring of local government boundaries was to encourage interactions, the sharing of and benefiting from ideas, inclusive of historical cultures, skills and experiences in building the communities, thereby facilitating the appreciation for interdependence, and what it means as we strive to forge a society of “One People One Nation One Destiny.”
There is much work to be done in the local authorities. The system needs modernising, including greater opportunities for autonomy from Central Government, though the conceptualising and implementing of programmes have to be consistent with the national thrust. Modernisation can only be made possible through active local government authorities and engaged citizenry demanding they be made more direct and meaningful.
Local government is much more than digging drains, weeding parapets, maintaining the burial grounds and overlaying of the streets. It is meant to be an active process of the people and their leaders working together to develop the communities. When there is poor turnout at the polls, it could send a signal to those elected that members of the community have no interest in what is happening within their district or how their taxes are managed. This could create a situation, on the part of the leaders, where they feel that they can do as they like, because the residents are disengaged and really don’t care what happens in their community and to their welfare.
You go through neighbourhoods where the drains are clogged, parapets and burial sites overtaken by bushes, potholes abound, garbage is piled up, unemployment is of concern, petty crimes evident, etc. and amongst these unsightly and hazardous conditions are nestled beautiful homes.
While perception may be garnered that persons are disconnected and unconcerned navigating through and living under deplorable conditions, such pose clear and present threats to all, but they remain the realities in practically every village and ward. Even for those whose immediate environs may be pleasing to the sight, there is no escaping the horrible conditions others suffer. Passing through the decay is unavoidable.
Few know who are their councillors, how to get in touch with them, and where their concerns/grievances can be directed. Changing the archaic and dire conditions in the communities require involvement by the casting of a ballot. Involvement does not stop after exiting the place of polling; it has to be maintained throughout the three-year period. Local government must never be seen, as just going through the motion every three years of electing persons, or as unimportant to our lives.
Government plays an important role in our lives. Elected and appointed officials in this structure are vested with the authority to determine what happens to and in our lives, from the womb to the tomb. This authority is based on the privilege granted through the ballot cast and such privilege should not go unchecked or unfettered.
It is said a people get the government they deserve. Basically, this means whatever treatment is meted out to the citizens by the government – local, regional or central – comes as a result of the vote or non-vote, apathy, silence, vocalising on issues impacting their lives, staying engaged, and holding leaders to account.
Tomorrow presents the opportunity to signal the determination to actively participate in your welfare in the village/ward and ensuring development takes place in your community. Vote!
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