Thursday, April 20, 2006

Stella Says…Peter Ramsaroop has finally won his first debate with me

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 20 April 2006)

It is not often that I am swayed in my opinion once I have made up my mind about something. Although I try to keep an open mind about various social, political and economic issues, I tend to have very strong foundational ideas that predetermine my position on any given topic.

Such is the position to which I had previously committed concerning the timely execution of the general elections in Guyana. I had maintained that democracy should take precedence in this matter by guaranteeing the people their right to vote by the established target date. However, I have changed my mind. I now believe that by forcing the elections before a voter list can be verified would actually hinder democracy instead of advance it.

A couple weeks ago my brother-in-law, Peter Ramsaroop, was in town for a couple of days and as we had dinner one night we discussed this issue in depth. I shot every possible suggestion I had for conducting the elections by the deadline at him and he easily countered every single one of them. This is impressive for my brother-in-law, since I can usually win debates on subjects for which I have such strong feelings.

I suppose it is necessary to mention that Peter and I do not agree on a whole lot when it comes to politics – not on American politics and not on Guyanese politics. When it comes to American politics, he is very conservative and I am very liberal. Peter thinks George Bush is a great president and I think he is one of the worst things to ever happen to the country.

We are often at odds over Guyanese politics as well, but I know his heart for Guyana cannot be questioned even if I do not agree with him on a particular subject matter. Which is why I simply could not understand how he could support the call for a boycott and postponement of the general elections since I viewed it as a complete affront to the rights of the people.

However, as he countered each and every one of my suggestions as to how the elections could be held regardless of the current situation, it quickly became clear that my sweet brother-in-law was winning his first debate with me – and I was not all that happy about it either. I am quite a sore looser.

I was not about to allow this conversation alone sway my stance on this issue, so I decided to reconsider some of the arguments by others on this subject and attempted to see these opinions in light of the information Peter had shared with me. This information was not anything I had not already considered, but he helped me see the situation as it really is in Guyana.

As an independent observer, it is difficult at times to fully grasp the intricacies of details that surround Guyanese politics. When I apply the basic democratic ideology that has historically been the foundation by which most nations employ a system of governance that is ideally people focused, I understand the basis under which Guyana's government should behave in order to adhere to this ideology.

This allows me to respond to any policies and performances that would undermine the democratic system to which the government has sworn to uphold. Above all, I believe the people are the ones who should determine the directions of the nation and that government officials are merely the tools by which the people implement and enforce their will.

I have also lived in several developing countries and I am therefore well aware of the convenient loopholes that allow government officials to twist the system to cater to their own selfish agenda – through legislation, backroom deals and economic stipends – all at the expense of the very people who trusted them with such a lofty position in the first place. This is also very true in America; it's just easier to get away with these criminal acts in smaller countries.

However, Guyana is a far more interesting study in politics than any other country I have ever encountered. Just when I think I have heard it all and seen it all, something else happens that utterly blows my mind and sends me back to the books for more study. Which is exactly what happened with this situation about how I felt about a speedy execution of the elections.

My previous stance on this issue was primarily based on the fact that the people should be allowed their opportunity to decide who will govern them – no matter what. I now believe there is no way that a fair election can be held without a verified list of voters.

Further, the current electoral system is seriously flawed. I have believed this all along, but thought it would be possible to conduct at least one more election first and reform the system afterward. However, the recent upset within GECOM has made it clear that partisan politics also rules even this commission, which is supposed to operate on a technical basis and abstain from any overt political agenda.

The credibility of GECOM is now highly dubious, especially since transparency is being questioned and the commissioners who pulled out were opposition representatives, creating a distinct taste of party devotion within a commission that should be non-partisan.

It will no doubt be a difficult task for GECOM to recapture the confidence of the people. However, if it can deliver a verifiable list and re-establish itself as a judicious commission, then perhaps the people of Guyana will be able to choose its leaders with the surety that their will is being done and not the will of power-hungry politicians.

So I begrudgingly give my brother-in-law a nod of defeat (though solely on this issue) and come to terms with the fact that Guyana is not prepared to carry out its elections in August. Too bad, I was looking forward to seeing the people choose a government that would spend more money on the nation's infrastructure than it does on big houses for party loyalists.

Then again, the closer we get to flood season, the more likely the national frustration level will compel a vote against the current impotent government. In fact, I'd love to bet the PPP Peeping Tom $100 that the flooding situation is not resolved when the heavy rains start again in December. How about a friendly wager, Peeps?

Email: Stellasays[at]

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