May 26, 2020 Letters
Today, May 26, marks the 54th anniversary since the attainment of political independence after some 150 years of British colonial rule. Regrettably, at the moment, the country has found itself in a tense political situation due to a combination of a long overdue declaration of election results and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Part of the difficulty also has to do with a social and demographic structure which we inherited from Britain. Guyana is described as an ‘implanted’ society made up of six ethnic groups all of whom, with the exception of the Amerindians came to the shores of the then colony of British Guiana to provide labour in the sugar plantation.
To a large extent, our political, legal and public service institutions still mirror that of Britain despite the fact that we have attained political independence over five decades ago.
We have a political system that has evolved from a wholly constituency system in the pre-independence years to a hybrid system that is a mixture of the constituency system and proportional system. The British Government imposed the proportional representation system in an attempt, ostensibly to deal with the race problematic which was described by one British Governor as the ‘curse’ of Guyana. Regrettably, the imposition of the PR model failed to address the race problem which became exacerbated in the post-1961 period resulting in some of the worst political and racial disturbances that the country had ever seen.
The imposition of the proportional representation system in our electoral politics was seen as a ploy to remove the PPP from office mainly out of ideological reasons. It is no secret that the British Government was pressured by the United States to deny the country independence out of fear that the ‘leftist’ policies of the PPP was not consisitent with the governance norms that obtained in Britain and the colonies under her control.
As it turned out, both the British and the US administrations miscalculated the extent to which the country would have degenerated to a point of being one of the worst in the Anglo- phone Caribbean from the standpoint of undemocratic and authoritarian rule. The country was reduced from one of the more prosperous country in the early 1960’s to the poorest in the western hemisphere. It was not until October 1992 that democracy finally returned to the country after an absence of some 28 years, thanks to the intervention of the United States, Britain and other western powers.
It is in the above context that the concern by Britain, the European Union and the United States for a free, fair and transparent elections in Guyana has to be seen. The failure of the PNC to abide by the norms of democracy and democratic governance had, in a fundamental way, undermined the very concept of a free and independent nation.
We live in an increasingly interdependent and interconnected world and any aberration in the democratic norms in one country can impact the overall political and economic health of the global community as a whole.
The argument advanced in some quarters about ‘outside interference’ belonged to a bygone era and holds no relevance in contemporary international relations.
It is the hope and expectation of most Guyanese that the stigma of the past as an undemocratic state is left permanently behind and we advance with pride, dignity and confidence as a free, democratic, cohesive and prosperous nation.
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