Sunday, April 09, 2006

Stella Says…While the government sleeps, the people can still prosper

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 09 April 2006)

Last Sunday, Sweet and Sensitive Freddie wrote a scathing column about tax evaders that would make anyone who has not paid their taxes red in the face for a very long time. I applaud his strong stance on this issue, especially as it applies to the richer Guyanese who have the money to pay their taxes, but withhold from the country her rightful dues.

His lecture on this issue reminded me of the time when the prolific writer Henry David Thoreau decided not to pay a portion of his taxes to the U.S. government. However, he was not trying to rip off his country. He was protesting the American war on Mexico and even though he only withheld the portion of his taxes that he felt would be used to fight the war, he still went to jail for tax evasion in 1846.

Much to his chagrin, Thoreau only spent one night in jail because someone else paid his taxes and he was release. However, his creative “protest” was widely publicised and he accomplished his goal of letting the world know what he thought of his government’s actions concerning the war.

I should point out that Freddie’s column was speaking about a different type of person though – the greedy type. I am talking about yet one more way to remind the government who is really in charge in a country – including Guyana. This is in keeping with Guyana’s Constitution, which says in Chapter 2, Article 9, “Sovereignty belongs to the people, who exercise it through their representatives and the democratic organs established by or under this Constitution.”

In other words, the people are the ones who decide Guyana’s future and the government is merely the tool by which these decisions should be enacted. I say this for two reasons; one reason is because I believe all governments have a tendency to over step their rightful boundaries and need to be reigned in from time to time.

The second reason is because I believe the ultimate fault for failure in any democratic nation lies squarely on the shoulders of the people. While I think George Bush is one of the worst things to happen to America in her short history, I blame the people for the current situation because they are the ones who voted him back into office after failing miserably during his first term.

I voted for Bush in 2000, not because I thought he would be a good president, but because I felt he was the lesser of two evils. Boy was I wrong! I even supported his decision to go after Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. It was when he decided, against the will of the people and international advice, to invade Iraq that I then took a very strong stance against his behaviour.

There was no way he was going to get my vote again during the last elections. Which is why I simply could not understand how so many Americans would have voted for him again. The only reasons I could see is that these Americans either supported his cowboy politics or they were so entrenched in their conservatism that they justified his questionable behaviour as a mandate from “God.”

The ironic part about this whole thing is that Bin Laden believes “God” told him to attack America too. “God” is either playing some serious mind-games with his creation or neither of these men heard from “God.” I believe it is the latter since neither the Koran or the Bible condones such atrocious behaviour.

At least Guyana’s government is not using God to justify their questionable actions. Instead, they just play dumb and act like they have done nothing wrong. Or they blame someone else when everything blows up in their faces. I wonder whom they will blame when the floods come again next year? Maybe that is why they want the elections as soon as possible?

Thoreau said, "Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right."

Oh that governments world-wide would have the same sense of decency as Thoreau! But they do not, which is why the people need to keep a vigilant eye on their representatives. Power corrupts and complacency sets in too quickly, leaving the people to clean up the messes made by the very ones they entrusted the country to in the first place.

Newsweek recently highlighted India’s fantastic growth, but said it was the people who brought progress to India. “India’s growth is messy, chaotic and largely unplanned. It is not top-down but bottom-up. It is happening not because of the government, but largely despite it… But it has vast and growing numbers of entrepreneurs who want to make money. And somehow they find a way to do it, overcoming the obstacles, bypassing the bureaucracy.”

In other words, the people of India refuse to allow their government to run the nation into the ground any longer. They are bypassing the government and bringing economic growth to the nation while their “government sleeps at night.”

Guyanese are just as ingenious. If the people of Guyana can find ways to survive in the mess the government has created, I bet they can find a way to make Guyana prosperous despite the government’s resistance to economic growth as well.

Remember Guyana - this is your country. It does not belong to Jagdeo or Corbin. They are merely your representatives – if you decide they are worthy of the role. The real power to make this country great lies in your hands alone. Don’t wait for the government to give you permission to succeed. Follow India’s role and bring economic growth the Guyana while your government sleeps.

Email: Stellasays[at]

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