PPP likes to boast that they brought back democracy to Guyana
in 1992. A lot of Guyanese however, are beginning to question
as to what exactly is the content of that 'democracy". It
should have been obvious by now that we have to be very wary when
politicians use certain words. Like Humptey Dumptey - they use
words to mean whatever they want them to mean. And they like to
use words that we feel good about - like "democracy".
After all, we believe that democracy is a good thing - a state
where all of us have equal rights and where all of us can be assured
that our opinions will be taken into account when decisions are
made that touch our lives. That at least is what we were told.
I guess that all of us have learnt by now that we shouldn't believe
everything we hear. At least when it comes to "democracy"
in Guyana. Many PPP acolytes would have jumped up by now in righteous
indignation and screamed, "Well haven't we done better than
the PNC?" Well yes, but that doesn't mean that we have democracy
in Guyana. There isn't a switch that flips between "dictatorship"
right into "democracy". The road to democracy involves
passing quite a few milestones that are only glimmers on our horizons
right now in Guyana.
of the obstacles in the way of establishing democracy here, is
the simple truth that the PPP literally has a very different view
on what democracy is all about. The PPP, as a Marxist-Leninist
party dismisses, as irrelevant, the notion that we should expect
to have our opinions considered in the formulation of national
policies. This is all "bourgeois" nonsense. The
PPP believes in "democratic centralism" and in fact
asserts that this practice is the very highest form of democracy.
In this view, the vast majority of people don't know what they
really need - so how can they be trusted to make decisions about
their welfare. Decisions must be made by those who have mastered
the mysteries of Marx. These enlightened souls would be in possession
of the tools to discover the "truth" about any social
situation and so can best guide the rest of us mere benighted
mortals. The PPP mandarins, then, are the only ones qualified
to tell the ordinary folks how to feel and act in their everyday
lives. You should now understand why, even though the whole country
has been imploding under the wave of crime and terror unleashed
after the February 26th 2002 jailbreak, the PPP is insisting that
there is no "crisis" in Guyana.
the PPP refuses to accept the fundamental truth that is the foundation
that all real democracy rests on - that man, by definition, is
imperfect and that, inevitably, the knowledge and judgement of
any man is imperfect. The corollary of this view is that it is
therefore to the benefit of all men that in the reaching of decisions
that will affect their particular group that the widest possible
agglomeration of views be solicited. The old truism expresses
this insight well - two heads are better than one. While this
route may hold up decisions a bit - in the long run, the bitter
experience and end of all dictatorships - including the Marxist
ones that fell in the nineties - should have taught us that this
is the safer path.
the Marxist-maligned "bourgeois" democracies, where
the party system has developed to represent differing views on
how the polity is to be governed, the principle is enshrined in
the phrase, auditur et altera pars - let the other side be heard.
The PPP, of course, dismisses all of this as stuff and nonsense.
Not surprisingly, it has resisted the implementation of its own
agreements to enlarge democracy in Guyana by making the work of
Parliament more "inclusive" through greater involvement
of the opposition. Its recalcitrance is excused by its apologists,
on the grounds that the PNC's record when they were in Government,
was even worse. Talk about abused children! All of this comes
to mind in the recent faux pas of the Fiscal Management and Accountability
Bill in Parliament.
I said in my remarks on the floor of Parliament, the need for
the bill couldn't have dropped from the sky. The PPP knew of the
World Bank's decision point demands to secure the E-HIPC debt
write-offs, for months now - the Bill itself would have taken
as long to craft. Yet the PPP refused to alert the Parliamentary
Management Committee that is the linchpin of any claim to make
the Parliament more "inclusive" and more democratic.
This Committee was informed so late as to give the opposition
just two working days to study a bill, which, by the Government's
boast is "comprehensive". Where is the spirit
of democracy? The PPP also refused to discuss the bill with the
newly constituted Economic Services Committee, one of the four
Sectoral Committees that are intended to allow Parliament to have
an "oversight" function over the Government's operations
- again to increase democracy.
the PPP had had been haggling over the past few months over the
lurid anti-Government details of the World Bank's "Guyana
Development Policy Review. The report demanded, inter alia that
the Government "continue modernisation of budgeting and accounting
systems (which was the substance of the bill) and "ensure
members of the National Assembly ...are informed about commitments
being negotiated with international financial agencies in order
to allow for timely debate and discussion."
PPP has insisted that the laudable goals of the bill should convince
the opposition to overlook the lack of consultation. But this
old anti-democratic ploy that the ends justify the means - when
leaders have to make decisions "for the good of the people"
vitiates the very nature of democracy. If this last incident was
an exception one could have overlooked it. But this is the pattern
and practice of the PPP when it comes to sharing information with
the opposition and with others. And the omission is even more
egregious when one considers that in this instance, since the
Bill was in response to World Bank/IMF demands, it was in the
interest of all Guyanese for us to have the widest possible national
consensus. And it's not just the opposition - as we implied,
it has the same policy even with its most diehard supporters -
witness the Government's silence over its agreement with the World
Bank/IMF on the future of the sugar industry. It doesn't
appear that the PPP is willing to change its "democratic
centralism" spots. The question is, how long will its supporters
be willing to go along with, "big brother knows best".
The upcoming challenge of Moses Nagamootoo to have democratic
elections within the PPP may open some eyes. After all,
doesn't democracy have to begin at home?