Thursday, December 08, 2005

Stella Says…Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 08 Dec 2005)

This has been a melancholy week for me so far. I am more than just a little frustrated over the flooding last week and I am finding it very difficult to put my feelings on this matter into writing. On top of every thing else, I am feeling a bit under the weather.

It is highly unusual that I cannot write about how I feel. In fact, writing is the customary outlet for the expression of most of my thoughts. If I am mad about something, it usually comes out in my writing. The same hold true with the full spectrum of my emotions.

Which is why I find it particularly interesting that I cannot seem to express this frustration. I think perhaps it is beyond me now. This is another feeling I find unfamiliar and alarming. I am usually a fighter. So why would one flood throw me for such a loop? I’m not even too sure myself.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no intention of giving up the fight. However, today I am spent. I have been wondering where the G$50 million the President handed over to the City Council was spent.

I have been wondering who the contractors were that supposedly did significant work on the drainage system to the tune of G$800 million in international aid that was forked over by a Task Force set up by the President to prevent further flooding - a Task Force that was disbanded in July because its work was supposedly done.

I am just so sick and tired of all of the corruption and governmental ineptitude that I simply cannot stomach one more debacle. In Freddie’s column from Tuesday, he asked the question, “…Does power have to corrupt all the politicians that possess it?” As I read his question, I knew the answer immediately – yes.

However, it is not power alone that corrupts people. It is unbridled and unchecked power. Even good men and women, when allowed too much power, can turn into a vile dictator if law and accountability do not restrain them. This is why Guyana continues to be plagued with crime, this is why corruption is rampant and this is why the streets were flooded last week.

Who does the government of Guyana answer to? They certainly do not answer to the people. If they did, then we would know what happened to all of the money that was suppose to have fixed the drainage system. We would see an itemised list of each repair and a justifiable cost for those repairs. We would know to whom each penny went, if the job was completed and if so, when it was completed. Yet we have none of the above.

What we do have is more broken promises and more missing money.

Until the people get a backbone and start demanding full disclosure of such projects, the government will never be held accountable for the proper allocation of money and an extensive follow-up to make sure the job was done correctly. Until the people stand up for themselves, they will continue to be jerked around – like they have been with the drainage system.

Henry David Thoreau once said, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” I have always felt this statement to encompass so much of life. However, upon further reflection this week, I have realised that Guyana is the embodiment of this statement.

The governmental system has been allowed to grow wild and do whatever it wishes without accountability. We try to trim the evil parts of the system; we hack at this evil branch and that evil branch, but the root continues to grow new branches. The evil must be stopped at the core. We need to completely uproot the tree and then burn the left over pieces.

Once the evil is totally vanquished, we need to plant a new tree and carefully tend to it lest it turn evil as well. I understand the need to be loyal to the old system. At times it even seems like it would be immoral to turn our back on it because it is Guyana’s history – a part of each and every Guyanese. However, the old system is evil and the evil is consuming the nation.

Regardless of the propaganda that maintains the opposite, Guyana is not doing fine. You don’t have to be a rocket-scientist to see just how bad things have gotten. Has Guyana seen worse times? Sure. But that does not justify the miserable state of the country today. Fear, crime, corruption and poverty are everywhere.

We cannot continue to hack away at a branch here and there - knowing full well in our hearts that the evil is at the root and to this point it has been allowed to remain unchallenged. In the end, it is the people who pay for the corruption.

When the streets flood, the people are the ones who suffer. When crime goes unchecked, the people are murdered, raped and robbed. On the other hand, when the people start expecting accountability from their leaders - that is when power is restrained. I believe it is time to remind the government that it works for the people.

There is no doubt about it, leaders have a tendency to allow power to corrupt them. Of this we are certain. Which is why we need to be ever vigilant in ensuring that those in power are accountable to the law and to the people.

If the lust of power overtakes a public servant, then that person should be removed from office, for his or her own good and for the good of the country. No person or system, no matter how good we believe them to be, should be allowed absolute and unchecked power.

As always, writing has once again helped me to work through my thoughts on this matter. I still have not been able to address the depth of my frustration this week, but at least I have worked through the despair that often accompanies the frustration. I do not put my hope in the PPP, the PNC or another other party. I continue to put my hope for Guyana’s future in the people.

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