Democracy promises power to the individual.
Yet, the average person feels powerless and unable to influence the shaping of this land, of making a positive impact on his or her society.
Free and fair elections allow individuals to vote, and each vote counts. But this mass voting that leads to majority-rule tends to drown out the individual.
This is why governments in enlightened societies set up ways and means of taking care of the more vulnerable citizens. In fact, in North America many State-funded organizations exist to make life easier for illegal immigrants, who cannot vote.
But poor and disabled people, and groups of minorities who would never see their community gain power in a majority-rule system, must be granted a strong voice in any society aiming for civilized existence for its residents.
Universal human rights under United Nations oversight ensure that vulnerable and minority groups all across the global village receive protection and access to basic needs.
Here, we have elections around the corner, and because we got caught in the trap of ethnic voting patterns, communities with smaller populations feel they could never play a meaningful role in governing this country.
It seems remote in the extreme that we would ever see an Amerindian- or a Chinese- or a European-Guyanese ever becoming head of state.
Even the large population of African-Guyanese talk of feeling marginalized and largely left out of governing their country over the past 19 years.
Before that, Indian-Guyanese felt they could not have a real say in their country.
Political experts blame the situation on the electoral system of Proportional Representation, and advocate for constitutional reforms. Some suggest we need the constituency system many Caribbean nations practice.
Given that such reforms would not happen anytime soon, how do we solve this crucial problem affecting the development of our land, now?
We could look at how other nations deal with this potentially explosive aberration in the governing process.
The popular call in recent times is for a unity government, or some form of power sharing.
In the meantime, as we explore how to solve the political power quagmire that bogs us down in severe under-development, how do we deal with the consequences? How do we minimize the impact of this lopsided way we govern ourselves?
The obvious answer is to set up a national system so that each individual, irrespective of ethnic, economic or religious background, would have easy access to exercising individual power.
Our society has broken down so much that the Ombudsman is toothless and plays no role at all. The Ombudsman should play a crucial role as a forum where individuals could seek redress for perceived wrongs.
The fall of the Ombudsman’s office reflects the overall decline of the national Justice system. Most people feel the Justice system is too corrupt, and the poor feel unable to trust the courts.
Across the society, communities that do not have real power in government feel lost and unheard.
A solid solution that would make a huge, immediate impact is to set up a national feedback system, where individuals of any ethnic, religious or economic background would have easy access to voice their opinions.
This national forum could have been the national, State-owned media. But our experience with the State-owned newspaper, radio and TV network shows that government’s paranoia strangulates this asset.
Every government in power over the past 50 years has exercised iron-grip control over the State newspaper, State radio and State TV. Citizens feel shut out of their own media network.
Years of fighting this injustice so far produced no action. Government continues to stifle citizen access to the State media.
So how do we guarantee that the vulnerable citizens of our land receive the fruits of our democratic culture? How do we ensure that free and fair elections translate into real power to each and every individual in the country?
Here’s a possible solution.
Outside of government, a group of concerned Parliamen-tarians, or maybe a group of concerned citizens from various organizations, could work to set up a national feedback system where persons could have a voice.
Such a system could see town-hall style forums in schools or community centres where citizens could submit reports, complaints or suggestions on solutions they may have for how the country could better be governed.
These could be complied and circulated to the independent media, and even brought to Parliament, where a Citizen Committee could be set up to deal with issues raised.
We need to find a way to tap into the power of the individual, or this society would continue to disenfranchise the voice of a broad swath of citizens.
All across the land we see the consequences of a government system that lacks compassion and care for the vulnerable citizens.
In fact, right outside the gate of the Parliament where Ministers gather in expensive suits, arriving in imported luxury vehicles, we see the complete abandonment of the mentally challenged.
At least six mentally-challenged individual persons make their home on the sidewalk of the Parliament.
This severe lack of good conscience towards the mentally-challenged in our society is grotesque. It vividly shows government’s deformity of conscience.
Who speaks for these helpless people? They are fellow-citizens, and we have to take care of the vulnerable among us who fall through the cracks of our social system.
In the absence of government setting up an efficient social safety-net for every individual citizen, a group of concerned citizens must come together to plug this gap.
We have to care enough as citizens to ease the burden that so many marginalized citizens suffer. These citizens feel left out of the corridors of power. They have no voice. They suffer silently.
Democracy has failed to grant them the power it promises to each and every individual in this land.
We could pontificate about equitable distribution of wealth, or constitutional political reform, or how we share power. But, although these are important, the society would leap ahead if every citizen feels empowered and cared for in our democracy.
Democracy promises power to every individual: real power to real people.
Our democracy must develop a way to exercise humane, conscientious and compassionate embrace of every person calling this land home. Each person must feel he or she is significant in the process of governing his or her country.