Guyana politics now

Winston Churchill, exasperated by opposition politicians constantly questioning his policies and his own credentials and frustrated by having to consult and compromise on measures which in his judgement were straightforward and ripe for introduction without hesitation, once exploded: “Democracy is the worst kind of government!” Then he paused, thought a little bit, considered the alternatives and ruefully concluded – “Except all the others.”

Democracy ensures, or should ensure, that the differing views, varied cultural persuasions and diverging concepts of how the people’s affairs should be managed are allowed expression and none ever squeezed into resentful, and eventually festering, silence. But encouraging plural views to contend often makes day-to-day government a frustrating business. To those in power, to command and control without question will often seem a more appealing option than to govern through consultation, tactical concession, and necessary compromise.

Take Leon Trotsky for instance – he makes a good point but you can also hear him reaching for his sabre when he says: “There is a limit to the application of democratic methods. You can enquire of all the passengers as to what type of car they like to ride in, but it is impossible to question them as to whether to apply the brakes when the vehicle is at full speed and accidents threaten.”

The essence of democracy is that contending views find organized outlet in contending parties. And the danger always is that contention will become so fierce and unforgiving that democratic give-and-take deteriorates into a sort of modified (and in some cases not at all modified) civil war. The great 18th century English essayist, Joseph Addison, saw a danger in his day which other nations in other eras (including our own) can easily recognize: “There cannot be a greater judgement befall a country than such a dreadful spirit of division as rends a society into two distinct peoples and makes them greater strangers and more averse to one another than if they were actually two different nations.”

In a democracy what is needed to avoid a state of political impasse and national drift and consequential displacement of any interest in meeting the needs of the community at large is magnanimity on all sides. Is this possible?

Is it possible for the opposition to show a magnanimity which recognises that those who have been constitutionally elected to govern and who became much too accustomed to wield that executive power untramelled by minority “interference” in parliament, cannot be expected easily to adapt to getting things done through discussion, mutual give and take and compromise?
Above all, is it possible for the government to show magnanimity by reminding themselves continually, and for real, that plurality winners do not take all and absolutely have to play the role of even-handed arbiter and as the senior partner in the national enterprise give quite considerably more than the more partisan players on their side think justified?

The trouble with this way of putting things is that it will be universally denounced. It will be denounced by those who can see absolutely no good in anything the government has done in the past or in anything it might propose to do in the future.

It will be equally reviled by those in government who are not prepared to make the slightest concession to what is viewed as plots and strategies designed to obstruct flawless policies and programmes.

“The warring tribes have trod the ground so hard and bare no crops will any longer grow.”

Vaclav Havel, surveying the political scene in what was then Czechoslovakia, made some observations once which might strike a chord not too far from our own beloved home: “…electoral politics are dominating political life… partisan bickering, bragging and intrigue,  predictions about who will join with whom and against whom, who will help (or harm) whose chances, who might eventually shift support to whom, who is beholden to whom or falling out with whom. Politicians seem to be devoting more time to party politics than to their jobs… All this displaces a responsible interest in the prosperity and success of the broader community.”

One year after the elections, that about sums it up.

More in Features, Sunday

default placeholder

Three welcome developments: The appointment of the Tax Chief, the Head of FIU, and the Bid Protest Committee

Three important appointments were recently announced, namely the Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and members of the three-person Bid Protest Committee.

20160725Dave Chadee

Caribbean chases Zika preparedness, after death of mosquito expert

By Gerard Best   Gerard Best is a researcher and writer covering social issues across the Caribbean and Latin America. Based in Trinidad and Tobago, he is the former New Media Editor at Guardian Media Limited and the Caribbean Communications Network, the country’s largest media companies.

These children enjoyed being pushed home by a cousin


Riverstown, a village on the Essequibo Coast, is pressed between Pomona and Airy Hall. Once you cross the railway-like bridge over a black water creek, you’re in Riverstown, where there are more than 700 residents.


Mobile money: a technological fad or serious economic business?

No one knows Imagine talking to a friend on the phone while thousands of dollars are pressed to your ears and no one knows it. 

default placeholder

Development imperatives for the extractive forest sub-sector

Regrettable underperformance Readers would have no doubt readily gleaned from the subject matter which was addressed in last Sunday’s column, whether it was a boon for Guyana or a regrettable loss as I had represented it, for a country of its size, vulnerability, and poverty, which was also exceptionally well endowed with forest resources, to be seemingly boastful of its historically comparative low deforestation rate.



Elie Wiesel, Auschwitz survivor, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died recently at the age of 87. His book, Night, is one of the most unsparing accounts ever written of the horror man inflicts on his fellow man.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: