Sunday, July 22, 2007

Stella Says…Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater!

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 22 July 2007)

Remember when as children we would play games and pretend to be a doctor, a fire-fighter or a bride? Our imaginations would run wild with remarkable ideas and most of the time there were no rules to such games. Instead, we would just make up the rules as we went along.

Of course, some children have bigger imaginations than others. I have one daughter who had an imagination as big as the universe and when she played with her neighbourhood friends who also had a huge imagination, they could get lost in a fantasy land of their own making for hours a day.

I would hear their conversations as one would say, “Pretend that a robot is coming to destroy the world.” The other would respond, “Yeah, and pretend the robot is taller than this whole house.” The story would get bigger and bigger and soon their imaginations would have them in a world of make believe.

This is what came to mind as I watched the drama unfold for the PNC over the membership list verification. My first notion was to wonder why it is not standard policy to verify the list each time a vote is required. I suppose there has never – or very seldom – been a need for a verified list of members before.

Yet still, verification of voters should be a standard requisite in any democratic process. As Mr. Corbin well knows. Oh, when I think of the fuss he kicked over verifying the voter list during the national elections last year, and rightfully so. Which is why it is so funny to see him making up his own rules this year.

It is like he is just playing government and making up the rules as he goes along. When my boys would play together as children, one would make up a rule when he wanted to win the game. The other would protest loudly and I would chastise both to play fair. Then the other would turn around and make up his own rule so that he could win the game.

Cheating might help someone win the game, but everyone playing the game knows the person cheated and the win was not real. Therefore, that person does not get our respect for playing a good game or for outwitting us; the person gets our disdain and our pity for not being able to win the game fairly.

When it comes to governing a nation, there should not be any rules made up along the way to suit the purposes of a single individual or a small group of elitists. There should be an established set of regulations in place that ensure the democratic process of voting and governing.

Government is not a board game like Monopoly. Or rather, it would be more appropriate to say Government should not be a game like Monopoly. In government, cheating the process is equal to cheating the people – and the people do not like to be cheated. The people do not want leaders who make up the rules as they go along.

They want the security of knowing an established process is in place from which even the most slippery of leaders cannot deviate. Guyana is still a young nation, but if every election someone is demanding voter verification to prevent cheating – then perhaps this is a policy that should have been installed decades ago.

A simple change of policy would save everyone a lot of grief and prevent the drama of these childish cheating games every time it is time to vote. It should not be so hard for the people of Guyana to vote – and to make sure their vote actually counts for something after their leaders get done cheating.

A good leader would have no problem with verifying a voter list because it is of utmost importance to make sure every voice is heard and that the will of the people is done – even if that means that particular leader must vacate his position.

It is a bad leader who prevents the will of the people by cheating just to win the game. Such a person is not fit for office. The comforting old saying, “Winners never cheat and cheaters never win,” is not always true when it applies to politics. When a leader is allowed to make up rules as she or he goes along, there is a high chance that person will win the game.

Sadly, this is the very last person who should win the game because a cheater lives by his own rules. I have known a few cheaters in my life. These are the types of people you keep at arms length for protection and must constantly look over your shoulder to make sure they are not stabbing you in the back.

This is the point in the story where everyone stands up, points at the cheater and yells, “Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater”! The world is warned about the cheater.

How can one possibly trust someone who makes the rules up as he goes along? If cheaters want to play games, let them play amongst themselves so the real leaders who truly care about the people can get on with the work at hand.

Email: StellaSays[at]

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