Systematic attacks on the pillars of democracy

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In recent months, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government has come under intense scrutiny by this publication – and other observers – for what appears to be a systematic assault on the nation’s democratic principles. From compromising electoral integrity to undermining the judiciary and stifling press freedom, the PPP’s actions suggest a deliberate strategy to erode the foundational pillars of democratic governance.

Democracy is not merely about holding regular elections. It encompasses a range of essential principles, including media freedom, an independent judiciary, and the right to freedom of association. The PPP’s actions indicate a systematic attack on each of these tenets, raising serious concerns about the future of democratic governance in Guyana.

One of the most alarming trends has been the PPP’s interference in the electoral process. Reports suggest that the PPP has strategically installed loyalists at every level of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). This move has raised serious concerns about the integrity and impartiality of future elections. For example, several key positions within GECOM have been filled by individuals with strong ties to the PPP, undermining the independence of this crucial institution. By compromising the electoral process, the PPP is eroding public trust in the fairness and transparency of elections, which are fundamental to democratic governance.

Equally troubling is the ongoing assault on press freedom. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo’s constant tirades against the media have been particularly disturbing. In a series of press conferences, Jagdeo has launched vicious attacks on media outlets like Kaieteur News, branding them as “gutter media.” This derogatory term is part of a broader strategy to discredit and intimidate independent media voices. During a press conference on May 9, 2024, Jagdeo dedicated a significant portion of his speech to lambasting Kaieteur News and other critical media houses – including Village Voice News – accusing us of biased reporting and spreading misinformation. This hostile rhetoric not only undermines the media’s role as a watchdog but also creates a chilling effect that stifles free expression and critical journalism.

The judiciary, another pillar of democracy, has also come under attack. Jagdeo’s recent verbal assault on Justice Sandil Kissoon, following a ruling in favour of the Guyana Teachers Union, highlights this troubling trend. On April 28, 2024, Jagdeo publicly denounced Justice Kissoon’s decision, calling it “presumptuous” and accusing the judge of overstepping his authority. This attack came after Justice Kissoon ruled that the teachers’ strike  is lawful and ordered the government to continue deducting and remitting union dues. By publicly questioning the judge’s integrity and authority, Jagdeo has undermined the independence of the judiciary and eroded public confidence in the judicial system. Such attacks threaten the principle of separation of powers, which is vital for a functioning democracy.

The PPP’s treatment of teachers further illustrates its disregard for democratic principles. The government’s response to the teachers’ strike, which was deemed lawful by Justice Kissoon, has been marked by hostility and contempt. Despite the court’s ruling, the government has continued to resist implementing the judge’s orders, demonstrating a blatant disregard for judicial authority and the rule of law. This behaviour undermines the teachers’ right to freedom of association and expression. By attempting to undermine the teachers’ union and refusing to engage in genuine collective bargaining, the PPP is attacking the very principles of democratic engagement and workers’ rights.

Moreover, allegations of discrimination based on race and political affiliation have plagued the PPP’s tenure. Reports of preferential treatment for certain ethnic groups and political supporters suggest a deliberate attempt to marginalise and disenfranchise large segments of the population. For instance, there have been numerous complaints from opposition members and activists who claim they have been sidelined or targeted by PPP policies and practices. Such discrimination is antithetical to the principles of equality and fairness that are fundamental to a democratic society.

The cumulative effect of these actions cannot be dismissed as coincidental. The systematic nature of the PPP’s attacks on democratic institutions points to a calculated and deliberate strategy. This campaign against democracy appears to have a singular objective: to consolidate PPP control and establish a regime characterised by autocracy and tyranny.

This trajectory is not only detrimental to our democratic institutions but also poses a grave threat to the future of our nation. The erosion of democratic principles undermines the rule of law and threatens the rights and freedoms of every Guyanese citizen. It is imperative that the PPP reverses course and commits to upholding the democratic values enshrined in our constitution.

The international community is watching closely. As a nation on the cusp of significant economic transformation due to our oil resources, it is crucial that we demonstrate a commitment to democratic governance. The actions of the PPP not only jeopardise our democratic credentials but also risk alienating potential investors and international partners.

The PPP’s systematic attacks on the pillars of democracy must be halted. Our democratic constitution must be respected, and the principles of media freedom, judicial independence, and equality must be upheld. The future of our democracy and the well-being of our nation depend on it. It is time for the PPP to embrace the tenets of democratic governance and abandon its path towards autocracy.



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