BY now, you ought to know that Guyana’s Regional and General elections are less than two months away. And I believe that now is as good a time as any to drop a reminder that we ought to be demanding better from those politicians we want to elect to serve us as our government and members of the National Assembly.
On Friday, there was Nomination Day, and since the Friday before, on January 3, the election campaigns and rallies began. By the time this column is published I believe Guyana will be in the height of the ‘Election Season.’
On Nomination Day, the political parties contesting the General and/or Regional Elections present their lists of candidates, and the nominators for those candidates. For the upcoming elections in March, 19 political parties are contesting. And, for general knowledge, a party has to contest regional elections and garner one of the 25 seats allocated in the National Assembly for the geographical constituencies (otherwise known as the 10 administrative regions).
What is important to note is that each candidate on each list is expected to sign something called a statutory declaration form. This form lays out several prerequisites which determine the eligibility of a candidate. These include whether the candidate is a Guyanese citizen (by birth, descent or naturalisation) and whether the candidate has any form of citizenship to another country. The second part is what I really want to direct your attention towards.
After signing one’s name, giving one’s address and providing the name of the political party, the candidate is being nominated for, this for, reads: “ [I] Do Solemnly and Sincerely Declare… That I am aware of the provisions of articles 53 and 155 of the Constitution with respect to the qualifications for election as a Member of the National Assembly.”
Now, this statutory declaration form must be signed in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths/ Justice of the Peace, and it is expected that in so doing, the person signing it is doing so in good faith. Even if one wanted to argue previously of ignorance of the constitutional provisions on dual citizenship and eligibility to be a member of the National Assembly, it is hard to believe that someone could claim ignorance when this is stated on the statutory declaration form. Learning this made me immediately annoyed, cognisant that over the past few months the matter of “dual citizenship” of a handful of parliamentarians was brought to the fore.
Imagine the people that are asking you to elect them to serve you would have aspired to these high political offices, even though they would not have honestly met that eligibility criterion. Dat makin’ any sense?
For now, I take some solace in hearing that the elections commission will be looking into this. And I also take into account the matter of dual citizenship and it rendering persons ineligible is quite well-known, so I will presume that persons would be smarter than to pursue these positions, knowing that he/she is a dual citizen.
Now for my other thoughts, right now, about this elections season. During this politically charged election season, it is quite common to hear grandiose plans for development. I have no qualms with that at all; I believe vision- and more so aggressive, ambitious, long-term vision- is what guides and drives a country towards innovation and productivity. But there comes a time when you have to be critical of the promises made and think about how achievable they are.
While ranting on my Whatsapp status last Sunday, I pleaded with whoever paid me any mind to demand more from the persons who want to be elected to serve us. I heard one candidate promise to create 50,000 jobs, across all sectors, over the next five year, if elected. I didn’t internalise this until I was out with some friends, and they brought it to my attention. When I began pondering, I couldn’t possibly imagine how that many jobs could be created in just five years, and to date, I still can’t. My point is not to illustrate how stupefied I can be sometimes (though this is a given); it is to advance that when we’re spoonfed these big plans and promises, we should be able to understand how these will be achieved as well. Politicians making these statements are akin to eating ah dry buns– you gah get ah cold drinks to ker it down!
So, if there’s one overarching point I’d like to make this week, it would be to demand more from the people you are electing to represent and serve you. Don’t settle for the nice slogans and the grandiose promises. Demand practical solutions and policy change. Think about whether they have pragmatic plans to mitigate some of the pervasive ills (you know, like racism and discrimination) in our society. And you know, no dual citizens this time around.