It is a good thing, which could only be welcomed as an encouraging development: this public pledging to adhere to a code of conduct by all political groups officially cleared to participate in this unsettled and closely monitored elections season.
We take this a long step forward and say why not all the way past voting date and throughout whatever dispute (hopefully none) in the March 2nd aftermath.
We take the bit between the teeth and appeal to political contestants: let this not be just another media propaganda moment, not another piece of paper, like so many other pieces of paper, rendered worthless from the inception because of lack of interest and lack of any intentions to deliver on one’s own end of the public promise, come whatever provocation or circumstance that may.
And since this is elections in Guyana, it is not the limitation and condition of ‘circumstances that may’ provoke, but the troubling sense that – in view of an already agitated environment, and sharply divided voting blocs – such circumstance menace.
As carried in sections of the media, the call is for all parties “to respect those aspects of its (Guyana’s) constitution which allow for political activity free from discrimination and intimidation.” That has a deep reach, and the concern is whether the animated and antagonistic groups can summon the discipline to conduct themselves and participate in a way that is unprecedented and refreshing.
We have heard of and reported on the higher profile instances, and recently there was the disturbing and regrettable development where individuals going about their work to provide much-needed services are prevented from doing so, and in a reportedly hostile manner.
This cannot continue to be accepted as the norm of modern elections in a Guyana that seeks to propel itself into the modern world. Or be dismissed nonchalantly that ‘these things do happen around this time.’ Whatever they are, and whomsoever commits them, these occurrences must not meet with approval, and should be condemned in the frankest and harshest terms.
It is a positive, therefore, to learn that the Ethnic Relations Commission has introduced a Rapid Response Unit to expedite the handling of “any complaints of bad behaviour on the elections campaign trail” (KN February 14). The Chairman of the ERC, Rev. John Smith said, at the code of conduct signing, that “We hope that the rapid response unit will be able to get to the source of the matter very quickly.” There can only be commendation for this step, within the limitations of the ERC’s mandate.
It is, however, recognised that, no matter the swiftness of the investigating, some damage would have been inflicted. For this is the era of uninterrupted social media access and its unrelenting mischiefs, and the many who live for just such mistakes are ready to spread and inflame.
After all, there is no better time to mass market rumour, exaggeration, and innuendo, through making political hay when the thoughtless and reckless is presented. They are found irresistible, when so much is at stake and with the understanding that this is how the world of Guyana turns and flourishes, with special application to two specific groups in the grand scheme of things.
For the reality is that this has application to only two of the 11 political groups contesting the March 2nd elections. And those would be, as is well known around here, APNU-AFC and the PPP. The others do not appear to possess the pitch and intensity incorporated in those two very meaningful words: “discrimination” and “intimidation”, they must be given the benefit of that doubt, based on public postures and public pronouncements since they emerged.
Even if any of the other nine groups were so passionately driven, they currently lack the numerical following and the dangerous fevers that plague the two political leviathans. That alone renders them irrelevant and inconsequential in the discrimination and intimidation departments.
Nevertheless, the ERC must soldier on. The new parties can be a sanitising and sobering presence while the hope is for the major groups to comply fully with what was pledged.
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