THERE was once a time, during the 18th century in Guyana that the colonies of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo were under the control of the Dutch and governed by a Court of Policy that consisted of persons appointed from a list that emerged from the College of Keizers, in an electoral college system that had no regard for the will of the people.
The masses had no say over government during this period. The first mass-based elections were held in Guyana in 1953, thereafter in times of independence, free and fair elections were practically non-existent. From the deadly slave rebellions to the sacrifices of the Enmore Martyrs, the right to have a say in your destiny was not an easy road for Guyanese. It is for this reason, I cannot heed the cries of those who refuse to vote.
The reluctant Guyanese voter normally presents several arguments; ‘It ain’t gon mek no difference if I vote or don’t’, ‘ things ain’t gon change anyway’, ‘I ain’t even know is who on the ballot’, ‘politics is a dirty game’, ‘I too busy trying to survive’, ‘What elections got to do with the price of cheese?’. None of these arguments can withstand scrutiny. These are simply excuses to justify laissez-faire citizenship. One of the most sacred aspects of a democratic political system is the ability to choose leaders of your choice.
It provides the freedom and opportunity to express your will at different intervals. If you are upset, you express that at the ballot box. If you are happy with the state of affairs, you reflect this by exercising your franchise to register your satisfaction. Refusal to flex your electoral muscles means you essentially lose your right to complain.
That being established, bad leadership fears the diligent voter, it is for this reason Guyanese were denied the chance to have local government elections for 22 years under the PPP/Civic government, even though the Constitution explicitly states that local government elections are a vital part of democracy.
Guyana could have had 11 local government elections in 22 years. During the period of the denial of this right there was the installation of 35 Interim Management Committees (IMCs) in 11 years. The IMCs are the complete opposite of the expression of the will of the people, it is the will of the dictatorial authority. Friends and cronies are imposed on the communities to exercise the party’s agenda.
In the final analysis, the return of local democracy to the Guyanese political process presents the opportunity for voters to choose representation at the community level. The myriad of issues that are on the ballot range from, but not restricted to, accountability, independence v party control, youth leadership, parking meters, the desilting of neighbourhood trenches, the clearing of alleyways, the resurfacing of roads, the construction and repair of bridges and more. When you ponder on the occasion, it is difficult to agree with the cries of a reluctant Guyanese voter.