–as nation joins world in observing International Day of Democracy
AS Guyana joins the wider world in the observance of September 15 as International Day of Democracy 2021, President Dr. Irfaan Ali, in a statement, has recognised all those who raised their voices and stood on the side of democracy during the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
“That experience has strengthened our resolve to ensure that our democracy is never again imperilled,” Dr. Ali said.
The Head of State also reaffirmed his government’s and the country’s steadfast commitment to democracy.
“We pledge on this International Day of Democracy 2021 to strengthen the ramparts which protect our fragile democracy: The Rule of Law, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and constitutional rule,” President Ali said.
He related that democracy is predicated on respect for freedom and human rights, and respect for the will of the people through free and fair elections held at periodic intervals.
“As the Caribbean Court of Justice has observed, elections that are free, fair, transparent and accountable are the lifeblood of a true democracy,” he added.
The President also related that the people of Guyana had once experienced the agonies and anguish of rigged elections and its consequential effects in relation to authoritarian rule, the abuse of human rights, and the upending of economic development.
“Many were forced to scamper from our beloved Motherland in order to escape persecution,” Dr. Ali reminded his audience.
He said, pointedly, that a threat to free and fair elections represents an assault on democracy, and that Guyanese have a duty to zealously guard the country’s democracy.
“For almost two-and-a-half decades in the past, our people were deprived of the right to elect a government of their choice. And, one year ago, there was an attempt to subvert the will of the electorate,” President Ali noted.
He added: “That plot was repelled, because of the heroism of our people, who stood defiant against the plot to rig our elections. Democracy prevailed, and our nation was rescued from the tentacles of dictatorship.”
To this end, the President recommitted his intention to ensure that the democratic will of Guyanese is never again threatened. In doing so, Dr. Ali said that efforts to fortify the country’s democracy requires the input of all.
“…religious leaders, civil society and every citizen who value, highly, freedom and the ability to choose. All of us must ensure that democracy is safeguarded every day of our lives,” the President said.
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira also spoke along the same lines, noting that the occasion presents an ideal opportunity for Guyanese to celebrate the country’s emerging democracy, and the freedoms and fundamental human rights that are afforded to all.
“The protection of our democracy, which is enshrined in our Constitution and Statutes holds even greater importance after having experienced the tumultuous five-month-long wait for the declaration of the results of Guyana’s 2020 General and Regional elections,” Teixeira said.
She noted, too, that the repeated attempts to “highjack the elections” were not only threats to democracy, but also tested the commitment of Guyanese to democracy.
She also acknowledged the fact that international and regional organisations stood unequivocally in solidarity with Guyana, and demonstrated their intolerance of the naked attempts to thwart the will of the people to choose their legitimate government.
The governance minister related: “Ultimately, democracy prevailed, and the resilience of our people was a clear demonstration of our commitment to democracy, and our willingness to protect it in the face of threats.”
PRINCIPLES OF DEMOCRACY
Teixeira said that as Guyana moves past the darkness of the 2020 elections period, the country must turn its attention to the restoration of its grounding principles of democracy, these being the Rule of Law, and the separation of the three branches of government.
“The protection of our collective responsibilities and rights has become more complex and profound,” the minister said. She noted, however, that even though the elections have gone, Guyana’s democracy is once again being tested during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a global public crisis which has warranted difficult decisions by governments across the globe to protect its citizens against the virus [while maintaining] balance between individual rights and collective rights and responsibilities,” Teixeira reasoned.
She said that as the country moves forward with a vision of ‘One Guyana’, coupled with a transformative national development strategy based on climate adaption, innovation and resilience, persons must be watchful of those amongst them who wish to destabilise and reverse the present and potential growth and improvement in the quality of people’s lives and return Guyana to the days of anarchy.
The minister said: “Democracy and anarchy are opposite ends of the political spectrum; clearly, there are those who are responsible for the attempts to hijack the 2020 election results who are now adopting anti-national postures and wish to fan the flames of division and conflict. Again, they are not in sync with the will of the people.”
She said that in contrast, many sections of society and government are working collaboratively to prepare, manage and coordinate opportunities for rapid economic development of the state, and to curtail the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, so that some level of normalcy can return, especially for school children.
“Ultimately, we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. At this time, in the midst of the pandemic, we must spare no efforts to protect the most vulnerable, including women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and other minorities, and save lives, not sacrifice them on the altar of bullyism and expediency,” Teixeira asserted.
The General Assembly of the United Nations has designated September 15 each year as International Day of Democracy. In proclaiming this ‘Day’, the United Nations affirmed democracy as a universal value, one which is based on the freely expressed will of the people.