AFTER weeks of bringing you the news, views and perspectives from the campaign trail, it is now time to head to the polls and cast that historic vote to determine how Guyana will be governed in the coming five years. From all indications, the campaign has been a bruising one as the contestants left no stone unturned in their quest to occupy the halls of government. Most of the offensive was pitched to supporters as the major contestants sought to protect their respective bases from the enticements of the other side. But every now and then we heard appeals for crossover votes, especially when they campaigned in Amerindian communities.
In the last analysis it has been a reasonably civil campaign. There were the usual instances of misinformation, personal abuse from the platform and downright appeals to ethnic feelings. In that regard, the PPP may have been more guilty than others. But the refusal to engage in prolonged tit for tat prevented any large-scale crisis on that front. We have had cause to use our editorial space to caution a few of the influential leaders for crossing the line. Surely, the integrity of an election depends largely on the capacity of contestants to abide by both the formal and informal rules of engagement.
But when all is said and done, it comes down to tomorrow—the day of reckoning. This publication has devoted much space to calling on citizens to take the vote as seriously as their fore parents did when they laid down their lives to achieve it. While there are good reasons for Guyanese to be somewhat despondent with the political process and some of its outcomes, that can never be sufficient reason to surrender the right to vote. We have repeatedly argued in this page that approach is tantamount to political suicide.
Today we take one step further in our line of reasoning. We call on Guyanese to go to the polls tomorrow and use their vote wisely. It is one thing to exercise the vote, but it’s a bigger deal to use it to influence outcomes that bring benefit to self, to family, to community and ultimately to the country. In other words, the vote must be exercised responsibly and strategically. Citizens are of course drawn to the ballot box for largely overriding and symbolic reasons. We respect that. But we urge that those must not be the only reasons that determine where and how you ultimately decide to place that precious vote.
This publication is not in the business of endorsing candidates or parties. As a publicly owned and operated entity we are tasked with staking out a zone of neutrality. Be we reserve the right to summon Guyanese to face the urgent realties which we confront. There is no doubt that our country cries out for mature and visionary leadership—it always has. But as we enter a new era in our bumpy journey from the shackles of the past, we must set our face sternly against the kind of leadership that constantly seeks to keep us on the brink of explosion. The bitter lesson of division and conflict is all too fresh in our psyche. It is therefore incumbent upon us to use the greatest political weapon not to weaponise the past, but to clear the way to a worthy future for all sections and sectors of the country.
So, we stand on the perch of the public space with this megaphone to make one final call to our country women and men to think and act wisely as you step into that sacred space tomorrow. Your decision would not only affect you, but more importantly, it would determine what happens to the angels of tomorrow—the children born and unborn. We must not open ourselves to the curse of the children by squandering the opportunity to set the stage for a new tomorrow unburdened by our not-so-exemplary past.
This is our first oil-and-gas vote—that is no simple label. It is pregnant with both symbolic and concrete meaning. This vote could determine whether oil comes to our rescue from the clutches of our sordid post-colonial lot or it leads to a further rise of the mega rich in our midst. Your vote tomorrow could determine whether the salt of our piece of earth, the working and non-working poor, gets a decent chance to climb out of their structural predicament. And your vote tomorrow could determine whether our dear country slides back into the high-handed past of dictatorship by the gun, or whether it continues to be a breeding ground for a democracy that is worth loving and defending.
So, go forth tomorrow and bat for the better instincts in us. Summon the wisdom of your gods and your ancestors as you strike a blow for your own liberation from narrow politics and partisan enslavement. But most of all use your God-given capacity to rise above unreason and give reason a chance. Vote well and vote wisely.