GUYANA: Guyanese want a new way of doing politics – By Geoffrey Da Silva

Letter: By Geoffrey Da Silva

Guyanese are dissatisfied with the way democracy is working. They want a new way of doing politics. In addition to regular, free, fair and transparent elections and freedom of expression, Guyanese want inclusive governance so that citizens, the press and the diaspora can participate in reviewing and implementing national policies, programs and plans.

In the 2011, 2015 and 2020 elections, many Guyanese changed the way they traditionally voted. It is estimated that at least 35,000 swing’ voters (equivalent to 5 seats in the National Assembly) cast their ballots, not primarily for party or ethnicity, but for politicians who they want to practice power with good character.         

This is significant because, in the new National Assembly, the difference is 1 seat and 1.38% of total votes between the PPP/C and the combined opposition of APNU/AFC and the small and new parties. In 2020, although most Indo-Guyanese voted for the PPP/C and most Afro-Guyanese voted for the APNU/AFC, these parties could not have won, respectively, 33 parliamentary seats and 31 parliamentary seats, without significant support from voters in the Mixed and Indigenous communities who are now 31% of the population.

In future elections, more voters will cast their ballots, not on the basis of party loyalty or ethnicity, but based on the following concerns. Will politicians manage properly the new oil-producing economy? Will politicians ensure that Guyana will not be infected with the oil ‘Dutch Disease’ in the financial, political, economic and social spheres? Will politicians smartly use the oil revenue to support a diversity of non-oil economic sectors to increase incomes for all ethnic communities in all the regions of Guyana? Will they implement policies to overcome the “pre-existing conditions” of unfair ethnic and class competition, corruption, poverty, crimes and public insecurity? Will politicians end the culture of impunity where elected politicians and public officials, who carry out illegal and corrupt activities, escape punishment such as sanctions, fines and dismissal?

Most politicians in the National Assembly are from the middle class. They are academics, doctors, lawyers, managers, engineers and teachers. They have social status, post-secondary education, high skills, good incomes and pensions, and access to economic resources.

Without question, Guyana needs these professional politicians from the middle class to use their authority, influence, skills, experience and power to successfully address the challenges of an oil-producing economy, a maturing democracy, climate change and pandemics.

But we need balance by including more politicians who are workers and farmers because, unfortunately, there are many examples from oil-producing countries where most middle class politicians acted like “a class for themselves”. They did not implement policies to overcome the social and economic inequalities that are a burden on the overwhelming majority of the population who are working people, the unemployed, the under-employed, the dispossessed, the marginalized, the poor and the hungry.

Now, more than ever, Guyanese want principled politicians not opportunist politicians who abuse power. Opportunist politicians come from all political parties, ethnicities, classes, genders, ideologies, ages, sizes, shapes and colours. While they appear to listen to people and they talk about democratic reforms, about fighting poverty and corruption, and about defending human rights, in reality, their actions expose their true character. They are preoccupied with using power to serve their own self-interests, and on facilitating unfair advantages for their families through nepotism, and for their friends and associates through cronyism.

They participate in and accommodate grand and petty corruption and quietly justify the paying of bribes supposedly to avoid bureaucratic delays. With impunity, they break or go around the rules. They discourage and obstruct investigations into how some politicians and officials have acquired wealth. They try to exclude or control how civil society organizations could participate in finding solutions to the
nation’s problems. They usually ally with foreign and diaspora ‘carpetbagger (dishonest)’ investors who want to take advantage of Guyana.

Most times, opportunist politicians get away with illegal behavior because some of their party supporters and some members of their ethnic community make excuses for them and do not call them out to be accountable for their wrongdoings.

Principled politicians, on the other hand, practice power for the benefit of the people. Although many have experienced social mobility into the middle class, they never forget where they come from. They are admired because they are honest, caring, fair-minded, humble, authentic, courageous and forward-looking. When they see something is wrong, they do not look away but they do something to stop or change it. They practice accountability and transparency and ensure that all laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

They are preoccupied with addressing the needs, hopes and the interests of the overwhelming majority of the nation who are workers, famers, the poor, the unemployed and the dispossessed. They work to create a diversified, sustainable and inclusive economy to provide more jobs especially for women and youth, to enhance public safety, to minimize corruption, to strengthen public institutions, to significantly reduce poverty and income inequality in all ethnic communities, to improve public services and to establish world-class education and healthcare systems.

Principled politicians work to implement Article 13 of the Constitution which mandates that all citizens’ organizations must be involved in the management and decision-making of the State. They support the creation of a level-playing-field for all ethnic communities and classes to equally access government patronage, state land, tax incentives, public contracts, local services, public service jobs, fair wages,
professional jobs, business and educational opportunities, financing, markets, and drainage and irrigation services.

Principled politicians also focus on improving Guyana’s Human Development Index (HDI) to end the inequalities in women’s health and the inequalities in the empowerment of women and youth.

Their priorities include [a] decreasing the very high mortality rate for women who give birth and preventing violence against women and girls; [b] eradicating the high income gap between females and males, [c] increasing the participation of women in the labour force, in senior and middle management positions and in elected positions at the national, regional and local levels; [d] improving access to the
internet across schools and communities; [e] increasing the participation of male youth in secondary schools; [f] decreasing the high unemployment among youth; and [g] lowering the high suicide rate.

Principled politicians work to end the strained and confrontational relations between the PPP/C and the APNU/AFC. They believe in making the Guyana dream a reality when, all the sons and daughters of our ethnic communities and classes, at home and in the diaspora, will sit equally, in sisterhood and brotherhood at the decision-making table, and use their wisdom and their good characters to chart the economic, social, political and constitutional future of the nation.

Geoffrey Da Silva

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  • WIC  On 11/09/2020 at 12:51 am

    You are a good man Mr. DaSilva and have served the Guyana very well over the years; your ideas are also sound. Regrettably however, until the numbers of the mixed & indigenous communities increase significantly (another 50 years?), racism and fighting between the Blacks and East Indians will continue to prevail in Guyana and the country’s development will be minimal. It would also helpful if Blacks would become more business oriented and not be satisfied to work for a wage.

    • kamtanblog  On 11/09/2020 at 3:01 am

      Disagree !
      Demographics will determine Guyana’s
      future….before during and after black
      gold wealth is squandeeed on great
      white elephant projects.
      With a population of less than one million
      Economic migrants will decide its future….
      swing voters ? Economic migrants come
      in all sizes, shapes,colours, ethnicity political
      economic religious affiliations/beliefs.
      Observe USA as a role model of how
      economic migrants has influenced the
      politico/ecomico/socio landscape post WW2.
      Left v right….lesser middle road policies.
      USA middle class still a minority !
      Rich v poor agendas.
      No sir beg to differ
      Guyana’s future will be determined by
      outside influences and in less than a
      decade. Change will come from within
      influenced by what happens elsewhere.
      Forever the optimist

      Kamtan uk-ex-EU

  • Kman  On 11/09/2020 at 10:50 am

    I didn’t know there are swingers in the Guyanese populace!

  • geoffburrowes  On 11/11/2020 at 11:37 am

    Mr Da Silva
    I’m sorry to say that your comments about politicians apply all over the world. That doesn’t excuse their self interest and it’ll be good to see more of those you describe as principled in all branches of Government all over the world – not just in El Dorado!

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