AS we move closer to the end of 2021, there are umpteen issues one can reflect on. Considering the global realities, the pandemic is unavoidable, and I think Guyana has answered in the affirmative, namely, to ensure that the right mechanisms are in place to advance the vaccination process and make the country safe. The government, of course, still has quite a job on its hand in getting more people to take the vaccine, to follow the COVID-19 protocol of social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands, and to deal with conspiracy theories of the virus that ignore the science, among others. The public must be an active partner to tackle these continuous challenges if we are going to make progress, notably, to halt the virus’ transmission rate. Over one thousand Guyanese have lost their lives, a majority unvaccinated, because of the virus. Healthcare, education, and the economy, like elsewhere across the globe, have taken a severe beating, and, again, because of the virus.
These unfortunate conditions have pushed countries, including Guyana, to rely less on citizens to follow COVID-19 protocol and instead apply mandatory restrictions and regulations, evoking dismay among sections of society in the name of violating human rights. The message is basic, the vaccine alone cannot tame the virus. To those who refuse to take the vaccine for whatever reasons, I understand. I say, however, we are all into these toxic and testing times together, made worse by the fact that we do not have a definite blueprint to tackle the virus. But if a common approach is lacking, we will be weighing ourselves down into a dark dungeon.
On the domestic front, there is a proposal to reform GECOM, which has ignited a firestorm of criticisms regarding its draconian characteristics. While one suspects that when the public’s comments and criticisms are shared with the government and subsequently some changes to the proposal might be implemented, it is unfortunate that the crux of the proposal has so far not been fully contextualised. To wit, the government of the day is saddled with the responsibility to address and act according to rising and looming events, and in this case, the harrowing ordeal Guyanese faced for five months at attempts of electoral rigging.
What would have been a normal election process and was until the vote counting started at Region Four, turned out to be a complex maze, culminating into a theater of absurdity. No other Caribbean country has experienced such an ordeal of electoral rigging, a stink of fleece of the lowest order. Therefore, to eradicate electoral malfeasance and perennial bedlam at GECOM, a serious overhaul of regulations is warranted, including the penalty of life imprisonment to rig an election. Because of the peculiarity of Guyanese electoral system, we cannot afford to merely copy other countries’ policies, but be cognisant that if we do so, we would elicit chuckles and send the wrong message to the riggers that GECOM remains an insipid institution. We cannot afford to play footsie with our electoral system and nourish vile practices that will bedevil the innocence of a nation. The proposal must flush out every morsel of pain Guyanese endured during the five months of disgraceful attempts of electoral rigging, never to happen again.
We have witnessed, also in 2021, the strengthening of international and local relations to generate business investment opportunities. The PPP/C administration has developed strategic partnerships with countries across the globe, including Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Latin America, and the Caribbean, to list a few. The motive is to generate a new wave of investment to bolster infrastructural development such as roads, bridges, housing, and hydropower plants, among others, brought about by the oil and gas sector. These initiatives are laudable and visionary that would, in the long run, transcend Guyana from a position of stagnant decadence to dedicated development with the overall aim that the life of ordinary Guyanese would be quantitatively and qualitatively better from the past. In the words of President Dr. Irfaan Ali in his keynote address during a virtual faculty workshop on the microeconomics of competitiveness, hosted by Harvard Business School, in early December: “Guyana is now poised to be one of the wealthiest countries in the hemisphere… [and the aim is to] employ the gains from exploiting these deposits into initiatives geared at expanding the economy, improving competitiveness, giving people the best social services, increasing productivity, enhancing food production and building new sectors,”
I say amen to this declaration, but we find ourselves where oppositional forces to the current government are in past familiar places, a redux of mayhem and malevolence. I am convinced that these are extremists whose intent is not based on constructive criticisms that would strike a political equilibrium between those who govern and those who challenge. Likewise, I believe that the wounds of those who tried to rig the March 2, 2020, general elections are still bleeding, an unfortunate macabre condition and position. Mercifully, the nation has so far weathered many storms, and we hope that in 2022, the oppositional forces would play a meaningful role in the very society it chooses to live, care, and oppose. Let us desist from the old playbook of inflammatory speechifying, incendiary actions, and the nurturing and supporting of steel-trapped minds but embrace the channels of democracy to voice and vent our feelings (firstname.lastname@example.org).