The State is our servant

-curbing the arrogance of big government

Central Government in this country so pervades every nook and cranny of our society, that we see big government as the answer to our problems. We expect a sort of omnipotence from the State.

And local communities suffer enormous damage from this way we see ourselves.

We expect big government to come in and make our villages and towns work, even to make our lives work.

Government fuels this damaging view, reinforcing on citizens their passive subjection to the State.

So the average individual feels helpless in making an impact in their communities.

Parliament sits passive, as we continue to suffer from lack of local government elections. Even with an Opposition-led Assembly, we hear that big government is holding up these local elections.

Villages all across this country suffer a steady decay because of poor and inefficient management.

Our capital city continues its free fall, with the government and Council at constant loggerheads.

Big government stifles the initiative, creativity and power of individuals to transform their communities, to play their part in building this country, in making full use of the latent human capital of our nation.

Our society suffers from this heavy weight anchoring us. Big government wants to run and manage every corner of this country. And big government fails at just about every project it embarks upon.

In the past week we saw massive failures in several areas: management of the Harbour Bridge; management of the Linden protests; management of the sugar industry, as strikes and protests continue.

How does the average Guyanese waking up to one fiasco after another, to murder and death plastered daily in the newspapers, to the effects of corruption and mediocre governance, deal with the motivation to build a solid life, contributing to his society?

Big government’s tentacles stifle and choke individual initiative. The average person in this country feels powerless. The citizen’s creative potential becomes wasted. The society becomes a pawn, passive and poor, in the hands of a government bureaucracy that absolutely ignores its citizens.

We may have become accustomed to such a political social culture, given 28 years of rigged elections and 20 years of centralized, arrogant governance.

Maybe this situation has become our comfort zone, fuelling our lack of personal responsibility for the state of our villages, towns and city, and cementing our passive inaction.

It just doesn’t work for us as a nation. We must transform the spirit of our land, in opening a pathway for individual citizens to play a powerful role in building this society, in contributing to our advance and progress.

Government must allow citizens to play their roles in the national development process. Parliament must focus on this as an urgent priority.

Citizens cannot any longer just perform their voting rights on Elections Day and then be left to slumber in a state of perpetual powerlessness.
It just doesn’t work.

A society is everyone. Government serves merely to facilitate citizen participation, and to ensure the power of the people reign in the land.

Parliament’s job is to see to it that Government does not abuse its enormous privileges, and to demand that the rights of every citizen be upheld. Since those groundbreaking elections of 2011, both Government and Parliament have failed in these tasks. Our society suffers for it.

What would turn things around?

Citizens need access to an empowered forum. Such a forum comes as the national media, or the justice system, or autonomous organizations that act for and on behalf of citizens. Yet, Government’s iron fists keep the national State media under severe stress. And corruption afflicts the justice system, so much so that the average citizen lacks confidence in the Courts or the Police Force.

So what’s to be done?

It may be a signature move for a Parliamentarian who really cares to take on the task of empowering and filling the vacant chair of the Ombudsman’s Office.

Such an Office should be housed at the Parliament Buildings, and be open all day for citizen participation.

Such an Office must also be empowered to demand answers and action from State officials, and should be autonomous and free to engage the independent professional media in its national campaign to make our democratic culture a reality for citizens.

The Ombudsman’s Office should have the Parliamentary right to follow up on allegations of poor public works by inept contractors; to question and probe State accounting malpractices that show up in the Auditor General’s report; to demand answers from Ministers and State employees about alleged wrongs, inefficient management, and damaging policies; to access State information at all levels.

The Ombudsman’s Chair should be filled after the vacancy is advertised and circulated internationally, and ideally this leader may be someone with strong legal and human rights leadership experience, and hired from overseas among the diaspora. The Budget for such an Office could be sourced from international aid and grants, until it could be incorporated into the national budget.

However it is done, such a strategy to national development would play a great role in empowering individual citizens of this land to make a dynamic difference for their country.
The Ombudsman’s Office should have a website where citizens from all over this land, and even overseas, could interact and share information and suggestions, to build a forum for an authentic national conversation.

The Office should publish its findings and its recommendations, and circulate this to the independent media, Government and Opposition leaders, and leaders of the business and non-governmental sectors.

We could transform our land if we employ a forum, a platform, through which each citizen would be empowered to actually and in reality take on big government, challenging it to perform in the citizens’ best interests.

We must let the State know, in a real and powerful way, through an empowered forum, that it is merely the servant of the citizens of our nation.

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