Sometimes it is hard to accept failure when you have so much invested emotionally in an organization or a person. We try to counsel, we hope they will change, we make apologies, we sometimes have interventions, we promise to pray for them, but we should never enable them in their wrongdoing. Having just travelled extensively along the coast of Guyana and seen up close the state of neglect of many of the villages and towns that many consider PPP ‘strongholds,’ I can empathize with supporters of that party, many of whom are still waiting for a return on the investment they made with their votes almost twenty years ago. Today as the party organizer and headmen start circulating through the Mandirs, Mosques and Temples one wonders what must be the true feelings of the supporter who is asked every five years for his or her vote then disrespected and neglected until the next election rolls around.
It was painful to watch the state of disrepair of many of the schools, most of which were old buildings built over thirty years ago. The rickety structures looked sad and uninviting, and a peek at the insides left much to be desired. Where were the computers and science labs? Where were the libraries, where were the playgrounds? Many of these schools were in low-lying areas and I could see the evidence of flooding, and could only imagine what happened at those times when the school became an island. Many of the houses in the villages were no different, as a complete demographic seemed destined to a life of poverty and neglect. Sure the highways were well surfaced and the stores were filled with consumer items big and small. But what bothered me was the state of the side streets where the people lived; they were deplorable. The potholes made for a most bumpy ride and were a sure sign of a complete lack of local governance or worse. My mind went back to the Boston tea party’s slogan; “No taxation without representation.” These people are paying taxes, yet there was nothing to show for the hard-earned monies that they were shelling out to the government. Crime was rampant, there were no jobs for many of the young people, the minibus drivers operated like madmen on the highways, and pirates operated at will on the seas. To add insult to injury many of these villagers and their forebears have voted PPP at every election.
As I surveyed the state of underdevelopment and neglect, and contrasted it with the prosperity that I saw in other places where the rich and well-connected businessmen lived, the criminality of the entire enterprise hit me. These poor sugar workers and rural farmers (the backbone of the party) were being used as ‘votes’ by the PPP in election years. They were uneducated and poor, given a few trinkets and promises at election time, and kept dependent on a party that no longer had their interest. One would have expected that the so called Jagdeo prosperity would have trickled down to these poor people, but their daily grind was no different from the rest of the coastal dwellers. Many of the youngsters that I spoke with were planning to leave, some for Suriname, others the US or Canada, some were planning to try their luck in Georgetown, and none saw any future in the villages. They wanted cars, and nice clothes, and fancy houses and money in their pockets.
Editor, I write this because what I saw was a microcosm of life in coastal rural Guyana. People are struggling to make ends meet. They are being taxed to death by this government and have nothing to show for the taxes that they pay. The schools are bad, the police are lazy and corrupt, and the local government in many places is non-functional. Yet in a few months the agents and organizers of this government will ask them to act as enablers and vote them back into power. I will ask my fellow rural Guyanese to ask them when they come to seek their votes: “Where have you been the last twenty years? And what have you done for us (the small man) lately? The time for change is now; we have been duped and made fools of for far too long. The corruption and thievery, lack of respect and neglect must be brought to an end.” This year we must all register our dissatisfaction with the state of affairs, and send the PPP packing. To my PPP friends who might find it hard to vote for another party then just stay at home; it is called voter nullification and it is just as powerful as a vote. Guyana needs change and we cannot get change with this PPP cabal.