(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 10 September 2011)
I have never made a public declaration on political candidates
because I attempt to stay as objective as possible in my role as a
columnist. However, in this case, the numbers speak for themselves.
Also, I am an advocate for women and, as such, it is my obligation to
speak up at times like this when a female voice is necessary.
In the last 12 weeks of this column, I presented one question per week that was posed to Guyana’s major presidential
candidates on women’s issues and their answers. At the end of each
column, I rated the candidates’ answers with the anticipation that the
candidate with the highest score would be the one who most deserved the
I rated the candidates on a scale of 1-3 with the
highest rating going to the best answer, in my opinion. There were also
times when the candidates rated a zero. Please keep in mind that the
highest possible overall rating is 36 points. (If you would like to read
the past 12 columns with the questions and answers, they can all be
found at stabroeknews.com/author/sramsaroop/)
Here is the tally of the
ratings: APNU candidate David Granger – 20. 5; AFC candidate Khemraj
Ramjattan – 26.5; PPP/C Candidate Donald Ramotar – 18.5.
shows Ramjattan as the clear winner. That Ramjattan was the strongest
on women’s issues was obvious to me as soon as I had finished the
interviews. His responses were strong and passionate. He has a good feel
for the situation of women in Guyana, probably because he has
interacted with so many in his profession as a lawyer.
conducted these interviews, I must admit that I was thrown by the fact
that the candidate I expected to be the strongest on women’s issues was
still very “old school” in thought. Granger started off by making a huge
gaffe in saying women should dress less provocatively to deter the
attention of creepy old men.
Ramotar barely scored at the halfway
mark with 18.5 points. This scares me. He was a very nice man and easy
to talk with, but most of his answers seemed disingenuous to me. Perhaps
he had other things on his mind (like a billboard with his image that
had been vandalised that day), but whatever the reason, women’s issues
did not seem very important to him at that moment.
candidates, Ramjattan is most certainly the one who should get the votes
of Guyana’s women. I have spoken with each of these candidates on
important matters concerning women, I have watched their reactions, I
listened to their responses and I am convinced that Ramjattan would
serve the women of Guyana best as president.
However, let’s face
it, even Ramjattan only scored 26.5 out of 36 possible points. That is
not a victor’s place. In fact, it is very disheartening to know that the
selection of candidates the women of Guyana must choose from rate so
low on women’s issues. I long for female candidates in Guyana.
know, I know, there were female candidates and they lost in the primary
stages. Did they really though? For example, Gail Teixeira would have
made a fantastic president. I am even more convinced of this after
reading by way of WikiLeaks of her desire to rid the nation of
corruption. The US Embassy is quoted as saying, “Post rates Teixeira
highly as an honest, forthright interlocutor.” Too bad she wants to
distance herself from such high praise and instead curtsy to the party
that has held her back.
In any case, party members did not decide
the PPP/C candidate and those who had thrown their hats in the ring
simply stepped aside for President Jagdeo’s choice – whether it was the
best choice or not. Clearly, for the women of Guyana, it was not the
The PNCR did have an election to decide the party’s
candidate, though even to this day I question the outcome of that
election. Faith Harding has said numerous times that she felt she was
shafted by the party and the media and while many just write her off as
being sour, I agree with her position and believe she would have made a
far better candidate than the one currently in place.
there is the never materialising prime ministerial position. Granger
promised the women of Guyana a female prime minister, but that has yet
to happen and I doubt it will. The same goes for the PPP/C. Though names
of females have been tossed about for prime minister – mark my words,
it will be another man.
There is also the case with TUF candidate,
Valerie Garrido-Lowe, being locked out of the party’s headquarters
while attempts were made to unseat her from her lawful elected position
as party leader apparently because she felt it necessary to break
longstanding ties with the PPP/C. This is such an ugly scene and I could
not be more proud of her for fighting back instead of bowing to that
nonsense that she should cave for the sake of the party.
curtsied to men for long enough. If we ever hope to see a better life
for our daughters and their daughters, we have to get up from our
perpetual curtsy and take our rightful positions in political, business
and religious circles.
While many would like to infer that there
has been an infusion of female candidates during this election season, I
would counter that there has been also been a lot of strong-arming of
these female candidates to keep them out of the political old boys’
I have no doubt whatsoever that every single one of the
women I have mentioned would have made changes that would have taken
Guyana in a more positive direction than their male counterparts.
sole exception to this whole election charade is Sheila Holder, the
prime ministerial candidate for the AFC. There were no strong-arm
politics in this case. Holder took her rightful place and the AFC
respected her position – and that was that. This is yet one more reason
the AFC is the best choice for women.
While the rest of the
parties just played with female candidates, the AFC made the choice to
have one from early on. In fact, I would suggest that the only reason
the other parties even toyed with female candidates at all is because of
Holder’s position on the AFC ballot. (Editor’s note: Holder has since
announced her withdrawal from the race due to illness.)
many women will still vote for the PPP/C or the PNCR (APNU) for any
number of lesser reasons. But if they do and if one of those parties
wins the elections again, then when the situation for women in Guyana
has not changed two years from now, the women will have only themselves
They say the definition of insanity is to continue to do
the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. I say
that if a woman in Guyana votes for the two parties that have governed
this nation for decades, you can only expect more of the same treatment
that has always been meted out to women.
In other words, if you
want more rapes, domestic violence, murders, lower wages than male
counterparts in the same job with the same experience and education,
sexual harassment by employers, discrimination against expecting
mothers, aloof and mocking law enforcement encounters, leaders who do
not respect gender equality, creepy old men chasing young girls and
leaders who blame the girls instead of the creepy old men, first ladies
who are treated like trash and put out of their homes with nothing but
the clothes on their backs, leaders who turn a blind eye to a woman
being brutalised by her spouse, politicians who could care less about
female voters and political strong-arming of female candidates – then by
all means, vote for the same political parties that have put Guyana in
this condition in the first place.
I have done my best to help
Guyana’s women by making it as easy as possible for them to choose the
best candidate for women. It is now up to them to help themselves by
choosing to vote – and by voting for a party that will best represent