by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 02 April 2006)
The world has watched with great interest and amusement as two governments were put into their place in the last couple of weeks by a tidal wave of protesters that overwhelmed the hi-ways and by-ways of France and America .
In America , immigrants and non-immigrants alike protested the proposed tightening of U.S. borders by making illegal immigration a felony. This legislation has already passed the House of Representatives and is now being debated in the Senate.
However, in a surprise move, the Latin community flooded the streets of many states in protest of this legislation. Not much is heard from the Latin community in America on the political front, which is why it shocked the rest of the nation when this normally quiet constituency started making a noise – and a very loud noise at that.
Even the children joined in for this protest and staged class walkouts on college campuses, high schools and even the elementary grades. My youngest daughter's school was no exception being 43 per cent Hispanic. Further, since my daughter is Panamanian, this was of course of great interest to her.
The protests were mostly peaceful, though things did get out of hand in a couple of schools. In one school a child was stabbed and in my daughter's school the police were called in and some students were arrested for taking things too far.
However, the protests achieved their desired goal; all eyes are now on the usually unassuming Latin community. They finally have the attention of the nation – and good for them. It is about time the largest minority group in the U.S. stand up for themselves and take their place in society.
Across the Atlantic, France has a different type of problem. This started out as protests by the younger generation for new legislation allowing employers to terminate anyone under the age of 26 within the first two years for any reason at all.
The government says the legislation is supposed to help bolster the sagging employment rate. The young people of France are not buying it. In another surprising move, teachers, train drivers and civil servants joined these young protesters this week. These public servants are ready to strike over the new legislation that has absolutely no impact on public workers since this is targeted solely at the private sector.
Last weekend the French Government defiantly said it would not back down on this issue. That was before this issue threatened to shut down the entire nation. I bet they are thinking twice about possibly reconsidering their stance now.
So what does all of this have to do with Guyana ? Everything. For too long, Guyanese have numbly accepted incompetence and indifference from their government, and have done absolutely nothing about it. Perhaps these peaceful protests can inspire Guyanese to see that they do not have to meekly submit to whatever their government decides to do.
If other nations around the world were treated with even half of the indifference and lack of respect that the Guyanese are subjected to on a regular basis, they would toss out their governments with a good swift kick to the rear. Yet Guyana is trapped in this abusive situation because her people feel there is no way out – but there is.
This is what The Economist had to say about the protests in France , “The protest is becoming a howl of rejection against the ruling elite, part of a pattern of such outbursts over the past five years.
In the 11th year of Jacques Chirac's presidency, there is a mood of what the French call ras-le-bol, or disgruntlement. It might be summed up as: we fear change, France is in decline, our children face an uncertain future, and we have no faith in the political class's ability to deal with all this.”
Does the sentiment of the French seem familiar? Of course it does; this same sentiment resounds throughout Guyana on a daily basis. The difference is that the French are doing something about their dissatisfaction. Likewise, the Latin community in America is doing something about its dissatisfaction.
The beauty of democracy is that when a government fails a nation, the people can replace it with a more competent government. Yet the race issue (perpetuated by the political class) has forced Guyana to choose between democracy and racial devotion.
The government uses racial fear to rule its people and as a result the people have forfeited their democracy.
If this is not a case of the cart before the horse, I don't know what is. I have highlighted the peaceful protests to show how the people are the ones who should determine the direction of the country.
The people are the ones who rule, through representation, in a republic. The government is nothing more than officials elected to enact the will of the people. France and America reminded its government of this fact through these protests. When will Guyana remind its government that the people are the ones who rule the nation?
If Guyanese wait too long, they may lose their chance and democracy could be swept aside by autocracy once again. If you think things are bad now when the government has to answer to the people, what do you think it will be like when they don't have to pretend like they care anymore?
That is a thought everyone should chew on for a while before the general elections.