Political mischief continues to drive lawlessness and irresponsibility in Guyana. The increasing use of mayhem to distort the work and achievements of the democratically-elected People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has long become the norm of politics in this country…’
By Prem Misir
‘Political mischief continues to drive lawlessness and irresponsibility in Guyana. The increasing use of mayhem to distort the work and achievements of the democratically-elected People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has long become the norm of politics in this country…’
POLITICAL MISCHIEF continues to drive lawlessness and irresponsibility in Guyana. The increasing use of mayhem to distort the work and achievements of the democratically-elected People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has long become the norm of politics in this country; and so, we would need to distinguish between politicians who ‘live off politics’ and politicians who ‘live for politics’. Those politicians who ‘live off politics’ are the prominent mischief-makers, heavily armed with promoting self-interests rather than the people’s interests.
And, indeed, politicians’ self-interests, not the people’s interests, have marred the political life of this nation: The constant humbug of unscrupulous demands for changes in electoral rules and systems; the relentless and selfish haggling over shared governance; the predictable election writs; unyielding bickering over constitutional reform; media distortions; the street protests; the race card, among others, are what we have come to expect during an election season. And clearly, the election season is now upon us.
‘It’s not surprising that these terms were excluded from the vernacular of the PNC regime when these very people worked within the PNC dictatorship; not unexpected, because they seem unable to distinguish between a dictatorship and a thriving democracy’
Let me say that use of the race card for some time now has turned out to be the mask for this unrelenting political mischief, especially articulated through the media. What is the reason for this mischief? Clearly, the raison d'être has to do with undermining this government and rewriting the political history of this country. But the people have the power to end this political nuisance, a political tragedy in some sense.
Dreariness, too, appears to punctuate the lives of many seeming politicians between elections; and perhaps, for them, this new emerging election season becomes the threshold for that much-needed excitement. Elections bouts are stirring times; moments when the elusive personal recognition becomes a glorious goal; and when opportunities abound for political muscle-flexing. And for what purposes? Certainly, this kind of continued political posturing can’t be good for consolidating a fragile democracy.
And we now hear from regular, or maybe ‘paid’ media letter-writers that President Bharrat Jagdeo is a ‘dictator’; that he’s busily constructing a ‘creeping dictatorship’ and an ‘elected dictatorship’, and may be ‘pleasing’ Indians. It’s not surprising that these terms were excluded from the vernacular of the PNC regime when these very people worked within the PNC dictatorship; not unexpected, because they seem unable to distinguish between a dictatorship and a thriving democracy.
The evidence clearly shows that Guyana has a parliamentary democracy in both form and content, albeit, a fragile one. This government has a built-in public opposition, presents itself for election every five years with multiparty involvement where there is an independent elections commission; where political power is not wielded by one person; where there are recognised limits to the Government’s authority; and where the government does not even come close to regulating all aspects of people’s lives. And since 1993, the U.S.-based Freedom House Survey has deemed Guyana as free, i.e., with political rights and civil liberties.
Advancing democracy requires expansion of inclusivity in governance. And constitutional amendments have now placed Guyana’s Constitution on the international stage as one of the most people-oriented in relation to inclusivity and Opposition involvement in governance.
Constitutional amendments also have furthered inclusivity, contrary to the erroneous view that this government has not amended the 1980 Constitution. Some of those amendments were:
The President’s powers were reduced, and his term of office is now limited to two. Note also the limits on the President’s powers through Articles 90, 180 and 182 of the Guyana Constitution.
And these Commissions are now in place: Ethnic Relations; Procurement; Rights of the Child; Women & Gender Equality; and Integrity. Parliamentary Sectoral Committees now review Government’s policy in the social, economic, foreign, and natural resources sectors. There are the Parliamentary Management Committee, and the Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform; this Parliamentary Committee System has membership drawn from both the Government and Opposition. Inclusivity in action; shared governance!
Earlier, inclusivity progressed through bi-partisan committees -- Local Government Reform; Border & National Security; Distribution of Land & House-lots; Resuscitation of the Bauxite Industry; Depressed Communities’ Needs; and Radio Monopoly and Non-partisan Boards. And the post of Head of the Public Service was distinguished from the post of Head of the Presidential Secretariat. In addition, PNCR, other Opposition representatives, and civil society are included on State Boards and Commissions.
This list is not exhaustive, but surely, this is a large arsenal of inclusivity; a huge reserve of shared governance in the making.
And then what is rather contemptuous, however, is the constant implied reference to the PPP/C Government as an Indian Government in quite a few of the commentaries; meaning that Africans and other ‘minority’ groups are marginalised.
These detractors never presented any evidence with scientific integrity of marginalisation of Africans or any other group. If marginalisation exists, it’s certainly not confined to only one ethnic group. And further, the claim of marginalisation sometimes is speciously equated with unemployment. I do not want to impale you with statistics here, showing that the claim of social marginalisation is dubious, as they could be easily referenced.
But both African and Indian working class people were victims of marginalisation during the PNC dictatorship (1968-1992), spouting high ethnic imbalances (see Debiprashad and Budhram’s study).
And since 1992, this perceived practice of marginalisation against Africans, if true, inevitably, would have placed them in the ranks of the social and economically-disadvantaged. People who are the victims of discrimination and marginalisation experience substantial deprivation in education, occupation, and income. But the social reality shows a different portrait for both Indians and Africans in this country. Both major ethnic groups seem to have comparable social and economic status (SES), a combined ranking on several dimensions of social inequality -- education, occupation, and income. But we need more research in this area to establish reliability.
The abundance of inclusivity certainly disavows the disingenuous arguments that Guyana’s social infrastructures execute dictatorial and racist practices. This government continues to deepen inclusivity, a process that is evolving. And the greater the inclusivity, the greater will be democracy and development. And so, where is this elected or creeping dictatorship that President Jagdeo is busily constructing?