Listening to people voice their concerns across this country shows voters want urgent action on three fronts: rampant State corruption, pervasive organized crime, and promised Constitutional reform.
It’s coming up to 20 years since the ruling party promised its supporters and the citizens of this country, including the Diaspora, that it would trash the dictatorial powers of the “1980 Burnham Constitution”.
When the society won free and fair elections in 1992, everyone took for granted that the ruling party would keep the promise to scrap the executive presidency, and grant more powers to their Parliament.
People today stand disappointed, dejected and depressed that they live under an executive President who remains a demi-god, not even answerable to Parliament for his actions, or intentions.
Experts even debated about scrapping the Proportional Representative system for one based on constituencies, where voters directly elect their Parliamentary representative.
All that talk turned out to be just mere political rhetoric and empty talk.
In fact, the folks now in Parliament travelled the width and breadth of this land campaigning for votes. Now that they sit secured in solid State-funded jobs, how many would go back out in the field to bring the daily concerns of the people to the House?
People want to see an end to rampant State corruption. People all across this country talk of it. People complain of massive monies doled out for bridges and buildings that in their eyes go wasted.
One businessman from Mahdia said the State spent $120 million of money belonging to the people, the voters, to lay water pipes in the mining town. “The pipes lie unburied on the main road, as makeshift as anyone could make it,” he said. He remains skeptical of the cost of this exercise.
Residents of rural communities told this writer of at least two projects where hundreds of millions of dollars were paid to “contractors”, and yet the projects never materialized. Money was paid for nothing done.
One businessman at Leonora, in his 70’s and a long-time member of the ruling party, wept when he talked of land deals at Leonora in favour of a powerful Government figure.
People across the country tie this perception of pervasive State corruption with widespread organized crime. People on the street, across the country, from the hinterland to Berbice to Essequibo, know that Guyana has become a haven for organized criminal activity disguised as legitimate business operations.
People know, and they feel helpless. They choose to accept the situation as it is because they see an all-powerful Government that lords it over their lives. With a rhetorical attitude of “what can I do”, people feel they have no choice in the management of their country.
Talking to voters across the country shows that this tired hopelessness fuels ethnic voting patterns. People seek security in “our own”, against the crazy corruption and the network of crime and the unholy constitution.
People resort to their own forms of protest, the most damning being a resigned apathy. Others steal electricity, tampering with power lines, or refuse to pay water rates to the tune that news this week came out that a whopping 85,000 households face water disconnection for non-payment.
People refuse to pay taxes if they have a choice. Georgetown residents deal with a city falling apart by simply not paying their rates and taxes.
Public servants who have their taxes automatically yanked out of their meagre pay packet protest with lacklustre, lackadaisical, lazy service to the citizens the State is supposed to serve.
And senior citizens, who lived through 28 years of having no voice, and then 19 years of having a voting voice only on elections day, but then being shut down for the next five years, now line up in hot, sweaty Ministry of Labour offices and post offices across the country to collect their pension of US$1 a day.
This old age pension cannot sustain a human being in this country. In a country where a loaf of bread costs more than the daily sum senior citizens receive as their pension, something has gone very, very wrong.
And citizens told the politicians these things when they came knocking asking for votes. And politicians promised to go to Government and Parliament and make a difference.
The politicians promised to scrap the Burnham Constitution, to rid the country of organized crime, to end State corruption where billions of dollars go unaccounted for, according to the Auditor General’s Report, year after year.
How come, senior citizens ask, their pension remains so low yet Government Ministers drive expensive vehicles and live in the lap of luxury?
Yet, people accept things as the ways of the world, vote for “our own”, and shrug their shoulders in resigned unhappiness.
Leaders who perpetuate such injustice lack good conscience.
Any average person feels the pain of people. In travelling the land one sees and feels what Amerindians in Moruca, St Cuthbert’s Mission and Port Kaituma go through every day, or farmers in Berbice, sweating in rugged old clothes in the hot sun, or poor villagers in Essequibo, rough and coarse, touting their farm produce at Charity Market.
For all this hard work, toiling barefoot on the fertile land under the sweltering sun, all they ask is for those State officials who wear nice clothes, drive air-conditioned cars and dwell in polished palaces to care for them with a pure heart, a good conscience. All they ask for is a fair playing field and for equitable justice and for their just due in the wealth of their country.
All the people of this country want is to see themselves in the Guyana Chronicle, NCN TV, and the radio station. They own these media. It is their platform, their voice. Yet, they duly elect their Government, and this powerful Government whom they feel they have no power over, deprives them of their newspaper, TV station and radio.
People just resign in apathy, the worst form of protest. This silent protest cripples the awesome potential of the Guyanese nation.
People simply want their elected representatives to keep the promise to root out crime, corruption and constitutional tyranny.
But they are not hopeful of anyone listening or caring.