I have followed to this day the thread of comments in the online blog which followed my last letter to the editor of the Stabroek News (the same letter was sent also to the Guyana Chronicle and the Kaieteur News). I am taken aback by the dominance of statements on the necessity for participation in the electoral process and suggestions on which party to support, but lack of any serious attempt to answer the question posed. I believe that this may have been due to the title given to it: my original title was ‘Why should I take my time to vote for you? (Any of you)’.
My intention was to provoke a response from all political parties which would see them providing to the Guyanese public in a consumable manner, information on their principles, values, views on critical issues and definite plans for Guyana if they are to win at the polls. This is the information I need to be made available to me to allow me to make an informed choice. I am honestly fed-up of the national elections in my country being run as a popularity contest in which contestants appeal to voters on the basis of tradition, family ties, personal selfish interests, fear and such like; and where some voters make a choice only because they don’t want to vote for the other guys. I would like to see a system where votes are cast for a party because people truly see that party representing their ideals and having the competence to lead this country in the interest of ALL of its citizens.
I had been guided to have a look at a video of a speech by Mr Nigel Hughes, and I did. He presented lots of information with great passion and made a compelling argument for all to vote: claiming an inheritance and respect for our fore-parents. Great! But, whom for? And, why for them? It is my humble opinion that our fore-parents would be more disgraced and dishonoured by the way in which we have been exercising the right to vote rather than a choice not to vote because of the terms presented.
I wish to state now that I have resolved that I will vote. However, if I am not presented with the information necessary to make my informed choice I will make a choice and encourage others to do the same, based on a strategy I believe will take us at least one step on the road to real change. I will leave the details of this for a later date. For the immediate, I need information: not just for myself but for all Guyanese. One contributor to the commentary following my letter said it is the responsibility of the voter to seek this information from the parties. I strongly disagree.
My work centres on advancing the ideals of good environmental stewardship in Guyana and the world at large. In doing this, I would like to have the public know what my position is, what constitutes good environmental stewardship, and have them throw their support behind my position. But I cannot expect that the public will seek after me just because I have an idea on the environment. I have to take my idea to them and communicate it in ways that they can understand and make an informed choice. In getting people to a point where they love nature so much that they want to work to conserve/preserve it, I do not hit them with my emotions and no infor-mation and hope that they would come around to sharing my emotions (and then get mad at them when they don’t see it my way). Instead I present them with information and take them to nature to let them develop more meaningful and lasting emotions to drive their choice.
The point I wish to make here is this, it is the responsibility of the political parties to ensure that every Guyanese knows what they are about and what their plans are for the country. What I see mostly instead, is that they have spent much of their time and effort in sensationalizing things and appealing to biases, self interest and fear, rather than providing information. Is it that they think that we the Guyanese public cannot process information to come to our own conclusion? Is it that they fear that if presented with the information the conclusion drawn will not favour their party? Is it that they have no real plan for the nation? Or maybe they just feel that we will dance at every catchy tune, laugh every time we are tickled and then take those sensations to the voting booth in support of them? All I am asking is that political parties see Guyanese people as independent, thinking human beings and treat them as such in their bid to secure their votes. I will close in saying that in 2006, already fed-up of the way the process of elections was being conducted, and ashamed that I had voted tradition and family ties before, I sought to explore a better way. In this I eliminated what I saw as two monstrous machines set in their own ways and sought after what seemed new and different, but which I knew little of. When I did not have the information that I needed presented to me, I wrote them to find answers to my questions. Today, five years later, I am still awaiting a response.
I pray this time it’s different.
C. R. Bernard