Nov 14, 2018 Letters Comments Off on People are sitting back as gradually their rights are being taken away
Democracy, it is often said, is the governing of the society by a majority mandate. However, this is only partly true; it is much more than that.
The democratic system must also safeguard the rights of the minorities as it does the rights of the majority. Minority here is used broadly to include those in the minority as to opinion.
To do so, society has developed various institutions to ensure that the law is applied equitably and that fundamental human rights are protected, upheld and promoted.
All democratic societies have three fundamental divisions of power. They are the Executive, normally elected at free and fair elections, the Legislative, the Parliament where laws are discussed, debated and passed; and the Judiciary, this branch of government interprets the laws and ensure that it applies to all equally.
In dictatorial countries, there are no such divisions of power. It is always concentrated in the Executive. The Parliament and the Judiciary are reduced to serve the Executive. They pass laws that the Executive wants and give decisions in courts to serve the political wishes of the Executives.
To ensure that the functions of these bodies are fair, society has sought to give them independence; to insulate them from the pressures of the Executive. Other important institutions of the state are also treated similarly – the police and the Elections Commission, to name but two others.
To allow those important bodies to function independently, the individuals appointed are given security of tenure. Persons in the Constitutional offices cannot be dismissed by the whims and fancies of the Executive. They should not have to fear of losing their jobs.
Dictatorship on the other hand does not recognize the division of powers. It ensures that the Parliament, the Courts, the Police, etc., serve the interest of the dictator or the Party in power.
Dictatorships, like democracies, vary in form. We can have open, brutal dictatorships as military coups; or we have seen dictatorships appearing to be democracies. These are dictatorships that come about creepily. They have the form and trappings of a democracy.
They hold elections that are rigged to stay in power. They have Parliaments, where the speaker acts more like a gendarme to shut down debates, threaten members of the Assembly. In other words, as a deliberative body the Assembly is subverted. It becomes a rubber stamp for the dictator.
The Judiciary in such cases also acts as an arm of the Executive. As the dictatorship is strengthened the Judiciary gives the Executive what he/she wants.
Mr Ashton Chase, O.E., once, while speaking of the PNC dictatorship in the 1970s through 1992, said that there came a point when the dictator did not have to instruct the judges what to do. They anticipated what he wanted and dutifully delivered.
That is why the appointments of persons to these high positions are so very important. The character, integrity of the individuals becomes extremely important, very vital. The institutions are managed by individuals. Therefore, individuals here acquire really great significance for people when they remain loyal to their oath, the society is strengthened in every way. When they succumb to pressure by the Executive and act as an instrument of the Executive, the society deteriorates.
Persons appointed to constitutional institutions should know of the huge responsibilities they carry for the country. They cannot afford to compromise the laws or act unfair and unjust to please a political party or a person that they may favour. To do so will be pushing the whole country down a path of dictatorship which leads to ruination of economics, politics and social life of society as a whole.
I am convinced that the slide to dictatorship which Guyana experienced from the late 1960s occurred because many of the individuals that headed important constitutional offices failed to live up to their oath of managing without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.
They allowed the courts, the police, the Elections Commission to become arms of the ruling PNC.
The result was great damage done to our country. Unfortunately, we have not overcome all the effects of that era. That is the real reason why we still lag behind the Caribbean in many respects.
Of course, there were some who stood up. They were removed due to the silence of the society.
I have been writing about the ominous signs appearing in the conduct of the governance of the country.
Every day our laws are being violated. This is glaring in relation to procurement and in the awarding of contracts. This is leading to massive corruption in the society.
Some of the decisions of the courts, the trumped-up charges placed on former ministers and senior officials of the PPP/Civic administration, are extremely troubling.
Very worrying also is the behaviour of the Police. The SOCU has already become a stooge of the political directorate. This body seems more interested in harassing political opponents of the regime. Their mandate to fight money launderers has been lost.
The arrest of Shafraz Beekham in Berbice after he exposed the trickery and illegal acts of the AFC in obtaining signatures for the backing of the Party for the Local Government Elections is extremely dangerous.
While most of the society have remained quiet leaving the PPP/C to fight the illegality of the appointment of the Chairman of the Elections Commission, the purging of that institution and public institutions of Indian-Guyanese is extremely sad. People are sitting back as gradually their rights are being taken away.
It is not too late. Those in top constitutional holders must appreciate that they too are leaders in the society. They must give our country the integrity and morality so vital for social and economic progress of any society.
The functions of these institutions can either help in the growth of a dictatorship with only the appearance of democracy or they can help to ensure the slogan ‘Government of the people and by the people’ becomes a reality.
The responsibility is great.
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