THE right to vote was fought for through blood, sweat and tears. It is a right that ought not to be taken for granted or ignored.
It is a right that allows every eligible citizen the opportunity to vest privilege into a person and group he/she thinks can best represent and articulate his/her interest. It is a right that carries tremendous power, through which the voter can hire a representative, fire that representative and exercise the responsibility in ensuring that representative accounts for the management of citizens’ affairs and the nation’s resources. Voting, therefore, is a sacred duty and must be cherished.
To cherish the vote is to turn out and vote and, thereafter, remain vigilant in the political processes to ensure that promises made are kept, involvement in the management and decision-making on matters that impact the well-being of self and community is guaranteed and respected. To not vote is to deny oneself the opportunity to influence the course of direction impacting one’s life and community. It is against this background that we see the move by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to move ahead with its planned house-to-house registration which will guarantee eligible young voters a chance to cast their ballots at future elections as a step in the right direction.
We have heard the comments from both sides of the political divide on this matter, and now the elections body by way of majority vote decided that its approved work plan for 2019, which includes house-to-house registration and for which some $3B had been allocated will go on. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, this exercise should be embraced by all, regardless of where you stand on the current political situation. House-to-house registration will also ensure that deceased persons and those who have migrated are removed from the voters’ list and, most importantly, it provides some level of comfort to political parties and electors that the list is ‘clean’ and is not compromised.
Man lives in a political association. By this, it means decisions affecting one’s life have political implications from the womb to the tomb. It was a political decision that informs laws and policies with regard to the right to life and where death occurs, the right for one’s earthly remains to be disposed of consistent with specific standards. Where death has occurred under questionable circumstances, the deceased is entitled through the Coroner’s Act to an inquest.
During one’s lifetime, political decisions will inform the making of laws, conceptualisation and execution of policies and programmes, which will impact on quality of life, inclusive of whether there is respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. These include the right to freedom of association, freedom of speech and sharing of ideas and information, healthcare, education, ownership of property, the right to a safe and secure environment, work (jobs/economic opportunities), and protection from discrimination. Political decisions inform quality and equitable infrastructural development and resource management, inclusive of the environment.
Where government in our country is representational when a citizen exercises the right to vote by casting a ballot, it becomes a corresponding right to question and propose ideas to elected officials since they are acting on your behalf. This is one of the basic elements in the thrust towards realising good governance. Good governance requires that citizens stay engaged throughout the process and elected officials responding to the desires of the community within the confines of the law.
Recognising the presence of representative democracy, good governance necessitates servant-driven leadership, which entails constant and sustained response to the needs of citizens. When a voter is denied the right to vote, it is tantamount to relinquishing an important act in determining who ought to be the leaders in the country. More so, denial and or refusal to discharge this sacred duty bears the consequences of having to live under conditions and in circumstances not befitting of your desire. A vote also places persons of choice in leadership positions to make and administer laws that can bring about economic opportunities, bring about equality, improve infrastructure, security and the environment, and manage your country free of corruption. To vote is to have a voice and the right to demand thereafter that the voice be heard and elected leaders act in accordance with the laws of the community and the desires of the people. Voting is a sacred duty and all eligible voters must be given the chance to exercise it.