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The recent 2020 elections in Guyana have been marred by allegations of fraud and extended legal wrangling. Critics will disagree but It must be noted that the coalition used every legal means to contest what they believed to be a fraudulent outcome of the elections. Notwithstanding allegations of fraud being thrown back and forth between the two major parties, we must ensure that their supporters are not oppressed because of their political affiliation.
There is a perpetual sense of fear in Guyana that when the ruling party loses an election, state sponsored reprisals will be meted out against supporters of the opposition party. This has been the pattern since 1992 when this government came into office following a democratic election. However, even the coalition’s rabid detractors will admit that this dastardly trend ended with the coalition’s win in 2015.
There is a persistent acknowledgement that the PPP government is at least petty, many would agree that racist is a better word, and the feeling is that when they win an election and take over the government, they use their power to punish those who supported the outgoing administration’s policies.
The PPP government’s response to debatably winning the 2020 election has been to punish key opposition supporters. Since 2020, the government has used the police and other state institutions to harass and marginalize opposition supporters in order to discourage them from continuing their participation in public life or political activities. They also orchestrated the arrest of politicians, media personnel and African leaders who previously managed various government agencies. They even took steps to cancel contracts, take back lands and economically persecute a wide swathe of opposition supporters.
Elections are a time for the people to decide on their leaders. No government should use the results of an election as an excuse to oppress its citizens. Governments should be inclusive of all citizens and afford everyone the respect they deserve,, no matter what political party they support. Losing an election should never be an excuse for oppression, but rather serve as motivation for the opposition party to provide better representation in future elections.
In fact, it should be looked at as a challenge which calls for more hard work and more inclusionary policies that would ensure that people feel valued and respected in their country. This is something that the governing PPP party has failed to do over many years and something which they have not done in this most recent election either.
The fact that half of Guyanese citizens did not vote for the PPP party should be seen as an opportunity for change rather than a reason for oppression. People deserve better than to be treated like second class citizens for supporting a political party other than the governing ppp. The right to vote is not a privilege. It is not a gift. It is not a favor. It is not even an honor—it is just what every citizen should expect from its political system. It is a fundamental right!
Political leaders must treat all citizens with respect regardless of their political affiliations or choice of candidates or political parties they support. Citizens have a right to express their opinions and choose the candidate of their choice without fear. Additionally, citizens must not allow a fear of reprisals to stop them from advocating for change. Instead, all citizens must continue to engage in dialogue about the issues that affect us all and demand that our leaders do better by their citizens.