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Ever since assuming the position of Head of State, President Irfaan Ali has spared no effort to advocate his government’s “One Guyana” mantra. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the citizens who feel marginalised and disenfranchised are scoffing at these words, referring to them merely as empty rhetoric.
Should Mr. Ali put his ear to the ground he will hear the resounding cries of anguish of a particular ethnic group, debarred from participating in the acquisition of the nation’s wealth. Indeed, should the truth be told, a wide cross-section of the Guyanese society regards the PPP regime as an electoral autocracy that shrouds itself in the mantle of democracy to gain political legitimacy.
Unfortunately, the many flaws and weaknesses in our constitution have allowed them to morph into an autocratic regime, vicious in nature that has mercilessly exhibited scant regard for democratic norms and values. Arguably, the framers of the constitution are not fortune tellers and anyone with even a modicum of intelligence would admit that laws need periodical revisits to adapt to the world and environmental changes. However, in the absence of a foolproof constitution, it is reasonable to expect some level of self-restraint and discipline among political elites.
Conversely, comparative political scientists may well argue that Guyana is a flawed democracy, a nation where, though elections are considered free and fair and where basic civil liberties are honored, there may still exist disagreements among factions. Having said that, one cannot ignore that a critical analysis of the political environment reveals that Guyana is governed by an electoral autocratic regime where elections are held devoid of respect for basic democratic norms where the basic fundamental rights and principles of citizens are under threat.
Even a surreptitious glance will uncover some of these flaws which include but are certainly not limited to (1) independence of the judiciary, (1) adherence to the statutes that govern local governance, devolution of power, parliamentary accountability, and separation of powers, among many others.
During his tenure at the helm, President David Granger had placed great emphasis on local government elections and devolution of power. The latter concept is an empowering tool that takes into consideration those among the proletariat as it is a deliberate effort to enhance the legitimacy of government and its programs. It enables the government to equitably distribute local public goods for services according to the requisite needs of citizens.
Consequently, between 2015 and 2020 additional municipalities and Neighborhood Democratic Councils (NDC) were established and provided the scope for citizens to play a meaningful role in the governance of their communities. The evidence will show that this strategy had reaped dividends.
Under the Ali-led administration, we have witnessed a reversal of the gains made under the Granger administration. Municipalities and NDCs which are governed by the opposition are starved of financial and other resources as the Ali-led administration refuses to meaningfully consult with those local government groups prior to the implementation and execution of projects in those local government localities.
In the capital city of Georgetown, the municipal government is unlawfully denied any input into the urban renewal projects that are being executed by the central government. Likewise, in many wards, citizens are clueless about the objectives of infrastructure projects being undertaken by the central government.
The recent brouhaha along Independence Boulevard, AKA Punt Trench Dam, where residents clashed with Government officials over their removal to facilitate works there, is a classical depiction of the chasm between the Government and the people they are placed in office to serve.
In lieu of consultation with local elected representatives, the Ali administration encourages and promotes rogue elements to challenge the legitimacy of elected and authorised bodies of local government areas that are governed by the opposition. This was clearly displayed on September 11, 2002, during President Ali’s visit to Mocha; there he was most rabid and launched a scathing attack at the NDC Chairman Mr. Adams, who was simply attempting to clarify an issue in doubt.