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The People’s Progressive Party’s bigwigs just love to boast that ever since their ascension to the helm of government, Guyana has metamorphosed into a democratic state. Obviously, these politicians are either disingenuous, in the least, or simply developed a strange case of myopia.
In fact, what is glaring, is the erosion of democracy, compounded by the deafening silence of a significant proportion of civil society. The strange thing is that these groups had stood firm during the standoff following the conclusion of the 2020 General Elections while advocating to be the ‘Champions of Democracy’ in Guyana.
One remembers the strident advocacy of this group as it protested and picketed to retain the cherished democracy this country had purportedly attained through indefatigable efforts. This, naturally poses the question, are these stalwarts willing to condone the current wanton abuse of citizens, or have they lost the moral courage to condemn the ruling cabal just as they did the former government? There has recently been an upheaval of activities where we have witnessed the wanton abuse of power towards notable citizens coupled with unlawful and excessively brutal coercive tactics as a means of intimidation to opponents of the regime.
Regrettably, the deafening silence emanates from those advocators that had earlier stood firm in the quest to firmly register their disgust in the ‘undemocratic’ ploys of the rulers of that day. Such tactics can be understood to some extent since many of the provocateurs of democracy are scared out of their wits at the very thought of criticizing the ruling cabal which can result in undue hardship for them and their immediate families. The attitude of both groups is unacceptable, nay repugnant even though one may have gotten the drift. It is such an autocratic rule that may trigger some level of empathy for the latter group in view of the fact that Guyana is governed by an elected autocratic regime which has many characteristics of an emerging apartheid government.
Democracy is much more than just majority rule; it is a governing system based on the will and consent of the governed, institutions that are accountable to all citizens, adherence to rule of law, and respect for human rights. Moreover, democracy is a network of mutually reinforcing structures in which those exercising power are subject to checks both within and outside the parameters of the state.
Obviously, the ruling cabal lacks these basic tenets of democracy and herein lies the problem. It must be noted that Guyana is a signatory to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 98 which compels both, the government and workers, to implement a common machinery to promote voluntary negotiations. On the contrary, we have witnessed the arbitrary imposition of salary increases by successive PPP governments for employees represented by the workers affiliated with the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) and other unions.
It is said that we are all equal but the Ali/Jagdeo-led cabal has ensured that their supporters are more equal than other workers when it doled out hefty salary increases to the unproductive and highly inefficient GAWU sugar workers who are predominantly ardent supporters of the ruling cabal. It was also shocking to note that the cabal’s disregard for collective bargaining was commended by Sarah Lynch, US ambassador to Guyana, even though it smacked of autocracy. It must be noted that this very ambassador was among the most vocal during the five months election debacle. Strangely, she has retained a stony silence with the current government’s undemocratic and discriminatory stance. Such attitudes force one to question Ms. Lynch’s agenda and that of the nation she represents.
One is forced to associate the posturing of some western diplomats and their forced decisions on this nation as the main contributory factors to the erosion of democracy in Guyana. The willingness of these diplomats to compromise democratic values in lieu of their countries’ interests is most disgusting and has emboldened the oppressive PPP regime to nod affirmatively to the autocratic/apartheid policies being practiced unashamedly.
Recently, in violation of the constitution, the Minister of Local Government, Nigel Dharamlall flexed his autocratic muscles and established new constituencies within local government areas in preparation for the local government elections. Had it not been for a vigilant opposition, this aberration would have gone unnoticed. Obviously, the Minister’s action was designed to undermine the GECOM, the institution charged with establishing and demarcating constituencies within local government areas. The minister and moreover, the cabinet, had to have known that such action is highly illegal since the resolution to such issues is determined by enshrined laws and statutes.
A democratic government is accountable to its citizens, however, the Ali administration has an uncanny aversion to this principle. Over the past two years, the cabal has performed poorly in this area. They have not properly accounted for the COVID-19 cash grant and flood relief subsidies among other expenditures. In addition, they continued to stymie and frustrate the works of the Public Accounts Committee through their frequent non-attendance.
Not satisfied with their illegal interventions and sly tactics, the government unashamedly displayed its autocratic nature for all to see when last week, in the heart of the capital city and demonstrating scant regard for the separation of power, agents of the central government and elements of the coercive arm (police) descended upon vendors in the vicinity of New Market Street, North Cummingsburg and forcefully removed them without providing a reasonable ultimatum nor placement area.
This was extremely unfair and draconian especially since those vendors were given permission to ply their trade by the municipal government, the M&CC, under whose purview the area falls. To compound the situation, the ensuing engagement between the Central Government and municipal officials resulted in charges being instituted against Mayor Ubraj Narine and opposition member of parliament Sherod Duncan. The cabal then pushed to further embarrass and malign the Mayor when a clearly directed press statement emanated from the Guyana Defense Force informing him of his disembodiment from the Guyana National Reserve.
It is unfortunate that the army, once touted as the stable, impartial unit, allowed itself to be ensnared in this political quagmire. The funny aspect of the incident is that in their haste to comply with a political directive, the hierarchy of the GDF has actually disembodied an unembodied rank. The uninitiated must understand that embodiment refers solely to the period when a reservist is called up for active duty and it is during this period, he/she is subject to military laws and discipline thus regularizing his status to that of embodiment.
The autocratic nature of the ruling cabal is fueled and sustained by ardent beneficiaries within the private sector, rent-seeking officials, foreign representatives, and the emasculated citizens, all of whom are compelled to protect their interests; albeit self-serving. We can ill afford to continue this path; it is destructive and unnerving and has the propensity to trigger civil unrest. If, or when this happens, the PPP and their cohorts will want to shift the blame to other unsavory forces.