Sunday, September 18, 2011

My choice for the next president of Guyana

(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 female vote.

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

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. 

The tally 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.

When I 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.

Of these 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.

I 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 best choice.

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.

And then 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.

Women have 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’ club.

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.
The 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.)

I know 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 to blame.

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 their interests.

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