Thursday, March 23, 2006

Stella Says…The choice of government should remain with the people

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 23 March 2006)

It is my opinion that the recent push for a boycott of the upcoming general elections is nothing short of contrived theft of the people’s democratic right to choose their own government. To compound the issue even further, Peter Ramsaroop and the ACDA are calling for a caretaker government while the election process is revamped.

I now see why they were calling for the boycott in the first place; it is to establish a caretaker government - a government not chosen by the people, but by the very leaders who have already failed the nation. Why on earth would the people want to relinquish this very important decision to the current lot of mostly inept politicians?

I have heard the various arguments for such a drastic action - the unfair aspects of the system, the fact that the current government has not taken the promised steps to rectify the system per the Herdmanston Accord (why am I not surprised?) and the innate fear that accompanies elections in Guyana on both sides of the racial configuration under normal circumstances.

In fairness, both of the long-standing parties have failed the country in this regard. They are both to blame for the fact that nothing has been done since the last election to finally do away with the winner-take-all system. The PPP has made no real effort to reform the constitution and the PNCR, in its position as the opposition party, waited until the last minute to sound the alarm and demand constitutional reform.

An undertaking so extensive and cumbersome as constitutional reform is not something that can be accomplished in a matter of a few months. It is an endeavour that will take years and should be started at the beginning of an election term, not at the very end.

Which is why the same groups who are calling for a boycott of the elections have now proposed a caretaker government to oversee the nation whilst the politicians dally away at reforming the constitution – for years.

Peter Ramsaroop, in his Sunday column, “Creation of a Caretaker Government,” said of the winner-take-all system, “This model will always create a racial divide and not allow the best and brightest minds who could contribute to Guyana’s development to do so.”

I vehemently disagree with Mr. Ramsaroop and do not believe we should assume the people would not cross the racial divide to vote for a better Guyana. While I do agree that the current system needs to be reformed, it is the politicians who have divided Guyana, not the current system. Which is precisely why the people should decide who governs the country for the next few years and not the usual lot of corrupt leaders.

Since we know this effort will take years and since we are at the end of one term and approaching another, doesn’t it make sense to let the people decide who should be in office during those years?

Moreover, it is the people’s constitutional right and responsibility to decide. I am assuming this is one part of the constitution that will not change. Why should the people sit by and let the politicians, most of whom have failed the country miserably, decide who will sit on this caretaker government?

It is not as if Guyana’s current politicians have proven that they can make wise decisions concerning what is best for the country or that they are above reproach and trustworthy so as to give the people a reason to trust them to establish a temporary government for the time it takes to reform the constitution.

I realise the potential is there for the PPP to retain the majority again, but that is for the people to decide. If there is an election boycott by the African community, then of course the PPP will retain power.

Mr. Ramsaroop questioned why the current government has not implemented the necessary reform for the electoral process, but I cannot help but wonder whether the current situation would be any different if the shoe was on the PNCR’s foot instead. This is why the people need to make the decision about who governs them and not the same politicians who have created this problem in the first place.

However, I truly believe this year can offer a possibility to change the political landscape in Guyana. The introduction of the new third force is bound to shake things up a bit and I believe if a fair share of votes is distributed amongst the three parties, this could be the year that the people find an equitable solution to their long and insufferable political plight.

This is a far more reasonable avenue by which to establish a government to reform the constitution. In fact, according to the laws of the land, this is the only way by which it should be done. Certainly Guyana is not at the point where it needs to declare itself ungovernable and establish a caretaker government.

If Haiti has evolved so much that it can hold democratic elections without the typical violence that usually ensues, then I simply refuse to believe that Guyana cannot do the very same thing. So long as the politicians pocket their racial instigations and the people choose to make their voices heard, then Guyana can have the same democratic outcome as Haiti.

Guyanese have been ripped off in so many ways. They have lost their bright futures to lackadaisical and self-serving governments. They have lost their security to drug lords and wanton criminals. They have lost more than half of their population to other countries with thriving economies. It would be nothing short of a crime to ad insult to injury and rip away their opportunity to decide who governs this nation too.

Email: Stellasays[at]

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