Instead of the much-touted decade of development, Guyana, it seems, is headed for a decade of dictatorship. Unless the naked grab to hold on to power by the ruling APNU+AFC is diffused, Guyana will return to the days of dictatorship.
Those who had promised the Guyanese people change are now on the verge of delivering a return to the old discredited and backward political culture of rigged elections. The APNU+AFC has taken a thirty-five year leap backwards into political degeneracy.
The last rigged elections was in 1985, before most of the young people of the country were born. They have never tasted the bitter medicine of dictatorship. They may soon do so compliments of the APNU+AFC.
The young people of this country, whose future seemed bright because of the oil find, now have ominous reasons to despair. Even though there can be economic growth in the absence of democracy, there can hardly be human development with an unaccountable government in place.
The experience of countries in South-east Asia, where dictatorial and authoritarian regimes led to economic growth and high levels of industrialization is deceptive. It masks the grave human rights abuses, extreme economic exploitation of workers and sadistic human regimentation which took place. Success came at a horrid price.
Democracy is not perfect, indeed it is far from perfect. But it is still the best system available, far more superior to any of the political options which have been tried or are being proposed.
A democratic rupture is taking place in Guyana. An election is being stolen in the crudest fashion possible. The rigging has lacked sophistication and finesse. The rigging has taken place bald-facedly in full view of the eyes of the international community, and it has been defended and justified shamelessly by the APNU+AFC and a small minority of its supporters.
The rigging has abused the system of due process. Specious court actions have been filed, aimed not at upholding the law and citizens’ fundamental rights, but of frustrating the democratic will of the people. Even when the courts have ruled, there were attempts to circumvent and offer ingenious interpretations to the court’s rulings, as is now the case in which once political activist saying that the CCJ decision was political.
The riggers have turned around and artlessly blamed the victims. The riggers have had the temerity to accuse the winners of electoral malpractice even though the only fraud which has been substantiated was done with a bed sheet and a spreadsheet and done in front of the eyes of world. No good can come from this act of brazenness.
All of this does not augur well for this country’s future. The possibility of a rogue government is too frightening to contemplate. But it is a real possibility considering the attempts which have been made, even at this late stage, to frustrate the final declaration of the elections’ results.
Guyana is heading down the path to a return to political dictatorship which everyone thought was banished 28 years ago. Guyana has had experience with this before. No one, not even the supporters of the rigging, should find pleasure in a return to this degenerate past
Dictatorship is deadly. It is characterized by discrimination, dispossession and depressed living and working conditions.
Development becomes its first victim. An immediate loss of investor confidence and massive capital flight takes place. All the oil revenues in the world cannot compensate for the high political and personal risks which are triggered by a return to dictatorship.
In the case of Guyana, it is not expected to see any significant oil revenues until 2026. The pandemic is only partly to blame for this Exxon is not yet producing at the 120,000 barrels per day. Even the anticipated US$300M may be elusive.
If an illegitimate government is put in place, there is likely to be immediate international sanctions which would mean that Guyana will not see a cent of this revenue. Even the trickle which Guyana should have received will dry-up, and with the hopes of our young people.
A government which is not politically accountable is not likely to be financially or economically accountable. The stealing and misallocation of resources will only get worse. Favouritism and nepotism will be the order of the day. It will be jobs for friends and family and there will be widespread mismanagement, incompetence and corruption.
At the political level, dictatorship employs methods of brute force, repression, and suppression. Human rights will become the first causality. Persons will find it hard to secure justice at any level of society.
Persons would not be able to speak; the press will be muzzled. Critics of the government will be victimized and no recourse will be available since the hands of justice will become tight-fisted. A ‘wrong and strong political culture’ will reign supreme.
All of this will lead to mass migration to the West, the Caribbean and neighbouring states. People will want to get out regardless of what it takes.
The international community now remains Guyana’s only hope. If they fail Guyana, then the young people should make a decision to get out of the country it will be no place in which they would want any longer to call home.
If the international community is implicated in negotiating a medium-term exit strategy for an illegitimate government, it would be complicit in the denial of democracy. It would result in the international community reaping its own bitter harvest because young and old will flock to the West, East and North to escape the decade of dictatorship.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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