Dec 31, 2018 News
By Kemol King
The millenial generation is a lazy and entitled generation or at least, that is what we were told; that those who grow up in the early 21st century, experiencing the rapid development of the technological age, from playing cricket and hopscotch outside to being inside all day on our laptops and iPads, were so heavily impacted by the simplification of work that we were made to be lazy and entitled. That we expect trophies just for showing up, even if we didn’t make first place. They call it the participation trophy.
I’m a millenial and I grew up hearing a lot about this from my elders. However, when it comes to politics in Guyana, our leaders are the best at being entitled, despite the fact that they are yet to give the youth a meaningful voice in their pursuits.
Over the years, many of our leaders have forgotten that they are public servants, not monarchs, not celebrities. However, they carry themselves with a crescendo of arrogance. It is this arrogance that caused the government to face such a major upset when Charrandass Persaud voted out of favour with them, and it is this arrogance that may very well be their downfall.
The day before the vote, I had heard that the governing administration was planning on having a crowd of its supporters gather outside of parliament in a show of support for their government. Not only were they supposed to be there to show support, that source said, but to ensure that any Coalition MP thinking of defecting, would be intimidated and have to think twice.
That night, I was told that my job was to interview the crowd. Sure enough, they were out there, all 200 of them in green. There were AFC supporters dressed in yellow, out there too, all five of them; a true representation, some would say, of the coalition’s power dynamic.
They were adamant that there was no chance their government could be defeated by the no-confidence motion. After all, the government’s side had boasted 33 sitting MPs, to the PPP/C’s 32. When I asked a woman if she thinks that there’s a chance a government MP would defect, she said she doubts it, but that if any one of them were to consider that, there would be trouble. She was about to expound, but after realising that she might have spoken too harshly, she held her tongue.
For me, interviewing the crowd was an emotional experience. It was a reminder that my country is still as divided as it was decades ago, along race and class lines. It was also a reminder that our politicians have consistently succeeded in pushing the bar lower and lower, so low that the Guyanese people would applaud them for doing the bare minimum.
They were threatening violence against the opposition. At one point, a section of the crowd chanted in unison, “Bring Jagdeo out, leh we beat he s***t!”
This anger, they said, was fueled by a set of extrajudicial killings that occurred under the previous administration of Afro-Guyanese young men, with little to no justice for the families of the deceased, or the perpetrators.
They were so sure that the motion wouldn’t pass. Then came Charrandass.
I wasn’t there when he cast his vote, nor did I expect it. I thought, even if a government MP thought the government was doing a poor job, that they wouldn’t risk destabilising the fragile state of social cohesion in our country. My editor-in-chief had advised me to head back to Kaieteur News early and finish my story, since a senior journalist would cover the vote. So, I did. Minutes after I left Kaieteur News, a friend shouted an exclamation that she couldn’t believe it. Scrambling to Facebook, I saw it on the top of my newsfeed: “Charrandass defects.”
That’s when everything went off track. Young people flocked to Facebook and Twitter, making jokes and memes, a common millenial reaction to chaotic current events.
As soon as Charandass Persaud said “Yes,” the room went into a commotion. Ministers of Public Infrastructure and Health, Patterson and Lawrence, were the first to swing around and glare. Two seconds later, Jermaine Figueira hit him on his left arm. The other government MPs went into a frenzy: “Charrandass, no! Change your vote! No! No! No!”
At one point, within a period of three minutes, a statement coming from a presumably female MP, could be heard, “Charrandass, you want dead tonight”. Another MP exclaimed, “Charrandass, wah de f*** wrong with you?”
Charrandass Persaud said that he received multiple threats to his life, including from a sitting government minister before the vote, that she would kill anyone who crossed the floor, by throwing them off the rail.
This country and its leaders have a demented, deluded concept of what democracy really is. It shows, from the news that the opposition circulated a memo to their MPs that they shouldn’t vote their conscience, to the evidence on parliament’s video recordings that Charrandass Persaud was physically assaulted and threatened moments after he finally decided to exercise his conscience after three years, as he claimed.
Later, the next day, Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes went live on Facebook and spoke about how people’s rights were trampled upon during the PPP/C’s time as government, and then commended her government for allowing Charrandass Persaud to leave safely. Imagine the bar being so low that the Guyanese people are made to think that it is a commendable accomplishment that they did not hurt a man for speaking his truth. Is this democracy?
Leaders on both sides of the political divide MUST step out of their own way, and listen more to the demographics that they haven’t made themselves comfortable pandering to, instead of only recognising the suffering of Guyanese people, when they are the opposition. There is much more to be done.
Regardless of the reason why he voted the way he did, Charrandass Persaud’s vote is a message to all of our politicians that none of them is a celebrity or monarch. They are not untouchable or immovable. They are servants of the people of Guyana, and they are subjects to the will of the people. Not just during the election period, but every single day they serve in public office.
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