Guyana Elections 2015 – The silly season is here – commentary

The silly season is here


ballot boxElection time is appropriately called the silly season. It is the time when normal people lose all sense of reason; when partisan politics supersedes even friendship; when the entire country braces itself for violence as people attack each other for no other reason than they look different.

Even the diplomatic community keeps talking about peaceful elections. It is as if Guyanese are animals whenever elections come around and attack each other with an abandon that can sometimes leave one to wonder if human life has any value.  

The politicians help fuel this disorder by talking to those in the inner circle about the need for violent behavior at certain times, either to remain in power or to force one group into power. There are less than 100 days to go before Guyanese go to the polls but the nation was prepared ever since the budget was presented in 2012 and the opposition parties voted to cut certain allocations.

The society sat as neither the government nor the opposition could make headway in discussions on even the most mundane issue. For example, the main opposition party contended that the hike in old age pension was not enough. Soon after, following discussions between President Donald Ramotar and Opposition Leader David Granger, the government hiked the pension.

That showed that dialogue could be had between the parties but then the madness returned. The government wanted to pass the anti-money laundering Bill and because it does not have parliamentary majority it needed the support of the opposition.  That was not to be. The Bill is now dead because it failed to gain passage in the tenth Parliament.

These things do not spark violence because people tend to take parliamentary matters in stride. However, when politicians on the campaign trail start to whisper to their supporters and conjure up all manner of images in the minds of these supporters then there could be trouble.

In Guyana the ethnic cleavage is more real than imagined although try as they might the younger people shun such things as ethnicity, choosing instead to fashion a common culture that involves the cultures of the various peoples that make up the society.

The Black people have always believed that they would be discriminated against should there by a government fashioned by the East Indian section of the society. People often point to the preponderance of people of Indian ancestry who occupy the most senior positions in the country. This has spawned a number of views.

Now there are whispers that a change in government would provoke a witch hunt. One whisper is that people of Indian ancestry would lose their jobs. Another is that there would be a rabid campaign to destroy all those who are serving in government positions.

These fears are bound to take root because the bulk of the population knows nothing of the previous administration.  They are made to fear the presence of a non-Indian leader. Because of these fears there have been many moves to have what is called a national front government, whatever that means.  The ruling People’s Progressive Party even went as far as to have a leader of East Indian ancestry and a Prime Minister of African ancestry.

In the run up to the last elections the other political parties attempted similar window dressing.

The truth is that while there may be an ethnic preference the people of this country know that each ethnic group has a contribution to make. Everyone can still remember when an outbreak of violence caused the predominantly East Indian vendors to stay away from the municipal markets. Georgetown could have died.

We have noticed the calls by the Guyana Elections Commission for an election campaign that is not based on race and likely to create conditions for violence. Even the diplomatic community is keen to see a peaceful election.

But there are always those of us who feel that we have to marshal other forces because our best effort has not been good enough to convince the wider society.

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