‘In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?’- Barack Obama
WHEN Donald Rodney testified at the Rodney Commission last Friday, he touched the depth of our soul, striking at the root of our heart of compassion. Oh, what our Guyanese nation put him and his family through! All he wanted, all that his brother Dr. Walter Rodney wanted, was for us to become a great people. They believed in us, they dreamed for us. They envisioned us as a nation of noble sons and nurturing daughters. This is all they wanted, free and fair elections, so we could govern ourselves and build the Guyanese nation together.
Instead, under the Guyana State of the dictatorship People’s National Congress (PNC) Government we saw Dr. Rodney assassinated in cold blood on the streets of Georgetown. In its bedraggled misery under the Mayorship of former PNC strongman, Hamilton Green, Georgetown wept again Friday as Donald Rodney testified at the High Court, remembering its lowest point on June 13, 1980, when political thugs assassinated its noble son on Camp Street, forever staining the history of our beloved city with the blood of our greatest martyr, struggling and dying for free and fair elections.
For decades we fought for free and fair elections. It’s what Dr. Rodney fought for, and sacrificed his life for, this crucial pillar of the democratic Guyanese nation we know today.
Dr. Rodney thought, as our entire nation did, that free and fair elections would be the panacea, the ultimate solution, to our economic and social problems, allowing us to showcase, finally, our great Guyanese potential to the world.
We never got a chance after Independence in the 1960s, because in 1964, the PNC formed a political coalition with the United Force (UF), and took over Government, only to soon after kick out the UF from the Government, triggering a mass migration of the UF’s core support, the merchant class of English people who had settled in Guyana, our Portugese families, and others, many fleeing to England, Canada and the US.
From that time to 1992, this entire nation focused all our energies on winning free and fair elections for our people. Dr. Rodney joined Dr. Cheddi Jagan and citizens from all walks of life to make sure we got there, with Dr. Rodney paying the ultimate price. Dr. Jagan kept the struggle going for 28 years, and finally won in 1992.
One would think the Guyanese nation, having achieved such a crucial and vital victory, would be content to finally embark on our amazing potential, which even the British recognised. Yes, we had plunged from being the best in the Caribbean, the most literate and the richest, to the poorest, ranking with Haiti. But free and fair elections would fix all that.
FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS BRING PROGRESS
We fought on and struggled with that idea in mind. Dr. Rodney, Dr. Jagan and all our freedom fighters fought hard and long for freely and fairly elected Government.
Today, as we face an election year in 2015 and despite what critics and naysayers would claim, Guyana hums and buzzes with vibrant social and economic progress. Our astonishing national housing success is among the best in the world. As President Ramotar reported in his end-of-year speech in December last, Guyana’s economic performance is outstanding.
“It is significant that 2014 saw Guyana growing economically for the ninth successive year. This is the longest period of continuous economic growth in the recent history of our country. It is even more noteworthy that this growth was achieved in the most testing of circumstances. Over just the two and a half years to mid-year 2014, the size of our economy has increased by 25 percent to $650 billion, our country has attracted more than US$629 million in foreign direct investment, credit to the private sector has grown by 41.5 percent to $190.5 billion, and total deposits in the commercial banks has grown by 22.1 percent to $334.6 billion,” President Ramotar told the nation.
In social services, our minimum wage approaches $5,000 a day for unskilled labour. Education is thriving, with a vibrant private school sector. In fact, today Guyana, with zero fanfare from this Government, has achieved a number of the United Nations’ Millennial Goals, including being able to house, feed and clothe ourselves. Now nowhere in this country we see old cars, or people wearing old clothes, or anyone starving because food is scarce.
Abundant and cheap, fresh organic food proliferates in the markets around the country; our citizens wear brand name clothes and sport smartphones and have easy access to computers and the Internet; citizens purchase their own cars, and now young people set themselves the immediate goal of acquiring a driver’s license so they could buy a car.
The Guyanese nation hums, buzzing with robust growth, vibrant energy and poised on the cusp of flight to us achieving our potential.
So, has free and fair elections produced the fruits we thought possible?
This year would make 24 years since we won free and fair elections. And the economic and social progress to show for it, in that one span of half a generation, should give us cause to pat ourselves on the back. We’ve done well.
Of course we’re not perfect. We had to correct a lot of economic and social misalignments and structural brokenness over the past two and a half decades. We fixed a lot of them, and now the economy hums along, with Finance Minister, Ashni Singh accomplishing an admirable job of putting our national economy on a smart autopilot that continues to develop and progress.
However, the most broken of our national institutions, our political infrastructure, remains mired in strife, division and misunderstandings.
The national media fail to focus on our economic and social development, on that slow, agonizing road of recovery, from where we were by 1985, when we felt crushed under the weight of an economy that had died, and a social system that had left citizens in absolute poverty and paucity, to now, when we push against that dead weight, throwing it off to be able to breathe with ease.
But our political system guards its most vital foundation, free and fair elections, with care. We’ve got that. We won. We embarked on the road that we envisioned back on May 26, 1966, finally, with free and fair elections, in 1992.
Yet, we fight and quarrel and refuse to cooperate and understand each other. We forget all the great things about what it means to be Guyanese, and we focus on little petty non-issues, and now completely ignore our great blessing as a 21st century nation on the world stage of democratic nations.
This is our grave failing. We elected the Government of President, Donald Ramotar in free and fair elections. But instead of working and cooperating with him, even with critical support and constructive engagement, we saw Parliament become a stumbling block to the economic and social progress we elected the Government to carry out.
GOVERNMENT’S JOB IS FOR THE PEOPLE
We did not elect a free and fair Government to please Parliamentarians. We elected a free and fair Government to make sure every Guyanese lives in a decent house and owns a piece of land to call home. We elected a free and fair Government to ensure the nation is well-fed. We elected a free and fair Government to educate the next generation. We elected our free and fair Government for economic and social progress.
Whilst the State Media fail to tell the true story of 21st century Guyana, the private-owned media, comprising three national newspapers, a gamut of TV stations, radio stations and tons of websites freely publishing whatever the owners want, mostly ignore the economic and social progress of Guyanese. This national media platform, existing for the first time in the history of Guyana, this landscape of vibrant free and unencumbered media, sees it fit to demoralise citizens, regurgitate gore and gossip, and exercise grotesque lack of objective Journalism, in fact exercising unfairness to the extreme.
Free and without professional guidelines in place, the vibrant, loud Media in Guyana today lack fairness.
We see a conjoining of this wayward Media with politicians out of the 10th Parliament who insist on one campaign: Government’s management, or, governance.
Guyana is not perfect, by far. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot more repairs to our broken national structures to carry out. We face embedded corruption across the society, both within the Public Service, including the courts and Police Force, and within the Private Sector. As we see in the annual Auditor General’s Report, we face problems in our national accounting system. These problems took root over the past 50 years, building up so thick and pervasive that it takes time to eradicate and clean our systems of them.
We see the utter collapse of the Garden City, under a broken system that perpetuates the kind of incompetence we saw under the PNC dictatorship. That, too, must be repaired, because token efforts, like the clean-up campaign Government embarked on recently, cannot transform the problem: we first must change the system that causes the breakdowns.
So, our nation today walks the earth with head held high, because we exercise our franchise in free and fair elections, voting for the Government of our choice.
But, in two important pillars of our democratic society, we see lack of fairness, and this is our fundamental problem.
The national media operate without fairness, unable to see beyond its partisan biases that we must work with and support our Government, simply because it’s freely and fairly elected. For five years, we must give the elected Government the chance to manage the nation’s affairs. If it fails to satisfy our standards, then we toss it out at the polls.
But we cannot elect a free and fair Government, and then unfairly use the national media and our Parliament and other forums to bring down the Government, to demoralise the Guyanese citizens, or to want to govern the country through public opinion.
The media landscape is free and open, but far from fair. And our sacred duty is to exercise such freedom with fairness.
Whatever our criticism of Government is – and we’re free to criticise as much as we want, for we have built a free society over the past 23 years – we must exercise fairness in the process.
Our society is caught in this deadlock, where too many vocal discontented souls focus not on our economic and social progress, even as outstanding and brilliant as Guyanese progress today, but on insisting to point out that the blue sky is full of grey clouds. And the media spit this out with vicious inconsideration for the feelings of citizens who digest the content of the airwaves, Internet and newspapers.
We’ve got a Government elected under free and fair elections. What more do we want? On the platform of that lofty height, we could now build the institutional structure, and align ourselves with the kind of structural integrity, that would advance us up as a 21st century nation.
Instead of seeking the fall of the freely and fairly elected Government, and demoralising citizens, and complaining ad nauseam of corruption all the time, instead of that, because we know the problems and don’t need to regurgitate them over and over, let’s instead band together with the freely and fairly elected Government, and work hand-in-hand to see ourselves rise.
THE POLITICAL PARTIES
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) fought long and hard in this country to lift us to where we are today. The Party is not perfect, but neither is it horrible.
The other Parliamentary parties, like happened in 1992, would be well-served to engage the PPP/C, and to seek consensus and common ground on national issues, like corruption and national accountability and project execution and so on. The Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) cannot expect to play a positive role without engagement of the PPP/C.
The PPP/C is the senior political force in this country. It won its stripes in a long, hard battle for Guyanese to be where we are today.
Donald Rodney feels safe travelling to Guyana to testify into the Inquiry of the Presidential Commission into the political assassination of his brother, Dr. Rodney. He has no fear of being in his homeland anymore. Today, Donald Rodney sees a Guyana thriving with the social and economic progress that Dr. Rodney dreamed of and fought for and sacrificed his life for and for which he became our most noted and worthy martyr.
This is what Dr. Rodney wanted, a peaceful, progressive, powerful Guyana, where the average citizen, with hard work and discipline and that Guyanese resolve, achieves economic and social goals, and where free and fair elections remain entrenched as our national value.
All that mattered to Dr. Rodney, to Dr. Jagan, was that we achieve free and fair elections. From there, everything else is possible.
Written By Shaun Michael Samaroo
“It is significant that 2014 saw Guyana growing economically for the ninth successive year. This is the longest period of continuous economic growth in the recent history of our country. It is even more noteworthy that this growth was achieved in the most testing of circumstances. Over just the two and a half years to mid-year 2014, the size of our economy has increased by 25 percent to $650 billion, our country has attracted more than US$629 million in foreign direct investment, credit to the private sector has grown by 41.5 percent to $190.5 billion, and total deposits in the commercial banks has grown by 22.1 percent to $334.6 billion”, President Ramotar.