Thursday, September 22, 2005

Stella Says… Let’s Play a Game!

(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 22 Sept 2005)

Let’s play a game! Let’s pretend for a moment that this new Third Force that everyone is talking about: 1) can bring together a racially diverse group that is representative our Guyana, 2) can actually work together for the good of the nation without the usual ego-promoting gobbledygook and 3) can garner enough momentum to win the election next year. Grant it, this is a lot of assumption, but for just five minutes, let’s assume that all of this can and will happen. What should this new form of government look like?

I know this question seems a bit premature right now, but it is a question the participants in last Saturday’s Third Force meeting need to be asking themselves very soon. They cannot wait until they are in office to make this decision and the country wants to know right now what will make this group any different from the last two parties that have ravaged Guyana.

I would like to offer what I think is the most essential aspect of any democratic government as a foundation on which this group can start – open government. This is exactly what Guyana needs, not another group of power hungry politicians who are more concerned with silencing as many voices as possible.

Last night I went to an event to hear Bob Woodward speak. Woodward is the Washington Post reporter who cracked the Watergate scandal and a hero for many journalists. The event was to promote his new book on how he broke that story, detailing the aspects of Deep Throat who is finally known to the world as Mark Felt.

Woodward said something that touches on a feeling I have been having about Guyana lately. He said that he felt it would not be terrorism or a natural disaster that kills America – it would be a secret government. This hit me right in the heart because this is precisely why Guyana has been slowly dying for decades.

My last column was a tirade on Robert Persaud’s attempt at stopping the thrust of a new party before it even got a chance to get off of its feet. I detailed several aspects of his piece that bothered me, but what I did not say was that it left me feeling like they just want everyone else besides the PPP to shut up.

This isn’t the first time either. My introduction to Guyanese politics was when I wrote a letter railing the President for suing a newspaper. Then there is also the appointment of a PPP Vice Chancellor to the UG against the protests of many. And now we have Persaud’s attempt at silencing all other columnists beside himself.

This type of behaviour leaves a chilling effect on everyone in the country. The message is frighteningly clear – the people do not matter and should not have a voice. It is not the crime or the poverty that is killing Guyana; it is the government.

The government of any democracy should always have an ear bent to the people. It should be open, transparent and responsive. Most importantly, it should be accountable. That means doing away with government-owned media outlets since these conduits serve not other function than to peddle party propaganda, which is an insult to the intelligence of the people. These outlets do not function in the role for which free press was created – to be watchdogs for people. Instead, they are lapdogs for greedy politicians.

The Third Force would do well to take this bit of advice into consideration during the early stages of its formation period; otherwise it could open the party up to the same type of corruption that has plagued the current and past administrations. Guyana does not need another incompetent and impotent government. It needs governance that is ready to roll up its sleeves and get to work for the good of the nation.

Therefore, the country needs to ask any new party these very important questions - What will this new governance look like? What will make you any different from the PPP and the PNC? How will you create and maintain a government that is accountable to the people?

If the Third Force cannot answer these questions, then there is no reason to get our hopes up. If it can answer these questions effectively, then it certainly may have the potential to be a formidable force in the next election. Though I started this column out with a game, Guyana’s future is no playing matter and she cannot afford to have another party that has no game plan once it gets in office.

- Stella Ramsaroop

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