Is Democracy Being Redefined in Guyana?
by Rakesh Rampertab

Guyana would be best served by the norms of democracy as we know it. Our Westminster-style system of government has worked successfully all over the world, and can be successful in Guyana too. It has worked free of heavy criticism until the recent PPP/C victories at the last three elections. What Guyana needs moreso is for our political and trade union leaders, and other power-brokers, to become less focused on who occupies the seat of government, and more committed to serving ALL our people.

The Westminster system allows an elected government to implement its manifesto, serve its term, and then face the nation again. It includes a strong (as distinct from a bully) opposition to support transparent and accountable government, and oppose discrimination and corruption. It demands a neutral and independent Judiciary, Public Service, and Disciplined Services.

Guyana would be best served when the PNC rejects terrorism, including that ostensibly committed by what the PNC usually refers to as random "criminal acts," as a means of destabilizing the country, and consequently attaining power. Guyana would be best served when more technocrats and less party hacks are appointed to Boards and Commissions. It would be best served when all political parties, particularly the PPP, are willing to invite younger, qualified applicants for positions, as opposed to merely retaining older party officials because of party loyalty.

Guyana would be best served when ALL Guyanese rise above race and follow those capable of being objective...of being Guyanese first. This does not mean a refrain from voting by “race”; that is a right which cannot be removed if we are truly concerned about democracy. The problem is not in the voting model we have, but in the act of voting that we exhibit. No Guyanese, Indian or Black, should support, either by public declaration or private silence, acts that are injurious and detrimental to the welfare of other Guyanese, regardless of their race.

The argument of it being "free" but NOT "fair" arrives out of those who object to ONE party (PPP/C) or race (Indian) being victorious in consecutive elections. But what is "fair" if a voter cannot have free access to the ballot box, and to vote as he/she wishes? Should we consider the ANC government under Nelson Mandela, which won power after the demise of Apartheid/freeing of Mandela, as being unfair to the whites simply because the Black electorate will always outnumber the white electorate? And if this argument is to hold for race, should it also hold for religion, as in the case for India. Should Muslims object to the BJP party (trad. Hindu) being in office because its supporters are overwhelmingly Hindus? Fairness, cannot be fair if it becomes defined by race or religion or anything else. Fair, as they say, is fair.

Guyana would be best served when all trade unions represent their members’ rights in trade union matters, instead of affiliating with, or serving the interests of, either the PPP or PNC. Trade Unions must return to their roots, and regain their independence from both the PPP and PNC. This applies to TUC, GPSU, NAACIE, and GAWU.

Guyana would be best served when no organ of the media is state controlled, and all media are impartial; when freedom of speech is not misconstrued as a license to preach violence and hate (e.g., Benchop), or the subtle suppression of any voice (e.g, Chronicle both under Burnham and now under the PPP/C) that may express anti-government long as it does not border on treason or sedition or libel.

Guyana would be best served when more men can emulate Mr. Haslyn Parris, and rise above party affiliations for the good of Guyana, and when their parties and/or fellow party supporters can support them rather than express denigration. Guyana would be best served when the PPP recognizes and uses, earlier rather than later, the Rashleigh Jacksons and Kenneth Kings, regardless of their race or party affiliation.

Guyana would be best served when each citizen can pursue his/her own dreams and do what he/she is good at, not by making soldiers of Indians or farmers of Blacks. Guyana would be best served when all Guyanese feel secure at home, and when no Guyanese feels discriminated against, particularly because of one's race or sex.

A wise man once said, “There are no impossible situations; only men who have grown impossible.” Our Westminster system has not failed us; rather it is us who will fail if we are to redefine the fundamental tenets of democracy.

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