R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
July 24, 2020

Subverting The Will of The People

Sometimes I wonder whether those persons who put themselves forward for political office and aspire to become Parliamentarians, Ministers or even to reach the very top, stop to consider the gravity of such a decision and the tremendous responsibility involved and sacrifice required. There may be prestige and glory in achieving aims but there is a high price to pay, personally and otherwise.

Take the current situation facing us even as general elections loom near. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the economic and social life of the country and continues to present formidable challenges not just for the current government but for its successor, whichever party wins the elections. Are the aspirants prepared for the challenge, and should we use the ability to handle such critical situations as a guide to the choice we eventually make at the polls, both individually and at a collective, party level?

The regional air transport situation is another, often confused as being about LIAT. As in the case of the pandemic, one sometimes hears the same person voicing very contrary opinions from day to day as the situation unravels. On COVID I have heard the same persons one day clamouring for a “lockdown”, then next day berating the government for not bringing home our sailors, only to change the tune whenever they hear announcements of new COVID cases.

Inconsistency will do us no good.

What is clear though is that in responding to the pandemic, persons allowed into our shores, our own people, have betrayed the trust of government and the health authorities in keeping their part of the bargain, quarantine. It can no longer be left up to them; they must either abide or be put aside.

Too often our opinions on such matters of national importance are unduly influenced not by careful consideration of facts, but by narrow partisan political considerations. With the advent of general elections such persons become even more strident in advancing their views oblivious to facts or reality. This is why some persons have adopted the habit of referring to the election season as the “silly season”. While much of the behaviour exhibited may be classified as “silly” the implications for society as a whole are far from being frivolous.

In recent times for instance, after hectic campaigning and hotly-contested elections, we have been witnessing a trend developing in the Caribbean in parties refusing to accept the results of elections certified by outside observers as free and fair. One Prime Minister even locked up the Prime Minister’s office after defeat and had practically to be removed from office, thankfully in a peaceful manner. Here in SVG, there are those who, five years later still refuse to accept the results of the 2015 general elections, in spite of losing many court battles.

These actions belie the commitment to democracy and respect for the will of the people which we all profess to uphold. They constitute a recipe for chaos and disorder. It can be taken to the extreme as we are today witnessing in Guyana. There, the people of that South American/Caribbean country with a sordid history of disputed elections stretching back some six decades, must be complimented for their fortitude and patience.

Almost FIVE MONTHS after the March 2 general elections, there is still no declared winner. All the efforts of the Guyana Election Commission and successive rulings by the region’s highest Court, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and the Chief Justice of Guyana are being frustrated by election officials with ties to the outgoing administration.

The serious business of governance and democracy is being undermined by fraud and dangerous frivolity in attempting to toy with the courts.

Worse, with a President still in power despite having been rejected by the will of the people some 21 weeks ago, his supporters have been engaging in slanderous abuse of the CCJ, CARICOM (both its administrative and political leadership) and some regional Prime Ministers, past and present, in their desperate attempts to hold on to power.

What is even sadder is that there are those among us who, for opportunist political reasons, are giving succour to the behaviour of such persons.

Must the people of CARICOM continue to stomach such despicable and lawless behaviour? What is even more worrying is that while the US State Department has joined many countries and international institutions in calling for the will of the Guyanese people to be respected, the current occupant of the White House has publicly, and dangerously, refused to commit himself to respecting the will of the electorate if he is voted out in the November presidential elections.

Can you imagine that? The “leader” of the so-called “free world” is openly saying that he might not respect the outcome of the polls, if they are not in his favour! Is this not giving support to those in Guyana bent on frustrating the expressed will of the people? What does it say to Caribbean affiliates of his racist Republican party who themselves have to face the will of the people?

No, COVID-19 is not our only threat, regional transportation not our only challenge, elections in the region are in danger of subversion.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.