For decades, great and noble Guyanese souls fought for democracy to become our solid foundation, believing it would lead to us realizing our true potential as a nation.
How could our democracy produce the promise it harbours for our people?
Think of the great Guyanese souls who fought, for decades, for democracy and good governance in this land: David de Caires, Walter Rodney, Dr Cheddi Jagan, George Fung-On, Michael Abraham, Martin Carter, to name some of the leading lights. These stand among our greats. They define our history.
Today, can we see democracy working as we thought it would?
In addition to serious fractures and lack of trust and openness among our political leaders, most citizens feel we lack good governance, and cannot trust our institutions of State.
It seems democracy only produces real benefit for the ruling political Party, and its close friends.
Our democracy cannot work, in fact, unless we build strong pillars to support an open, free society, where meritocracy rules the day.
For us to achieve real fruits of democracy, those fruits that our thinkers and visionaries foresaw as necessary for the Guyanese people to progress in the world, we must build these pillars to ensure a just society.
Citizens want a solid Justice system, an open and free national media, and a literate, thinking society.
In our democracy, these three vital pillars, instead of being strong and solid and reliable, totter shakily and are weak and unreliable.
The nature of democracy presupposes the paramountcy of the rule of law. Corruption across the Police Force and in the courts erodes any confidence the citizen feels towards redressing wrongs. Now, talk to the average citizen and we sense a national pessimism about our Justice system, especially among the poor, who cannot afford to bribe their way through the shady system.
In the national media, Government maintains tight dictatorship over the State newspaper, State TV and State radio. The elected Government muzzles the national media, and the independent private media resort to fighting for survival, battling unfair competition from powerful friends aligned to the Government, who receive licences and special concessions to set up subservient media outlets, which act more as Public Relations animals than independent thinking organs.
In this arena, the voice of the nation, the Guyanese people, since political Independence, never experienced freedom of thought, freedom of expression and a free flow of ideas. Government after Government resorts to muzzling the press, hiring subservient yes-men of questionable professional ethics to keep a tight lid on State media.
The society suffers.
Our democracy cannot work unless we build a just society. This calls for leaders of noble character and high thinking, men and women confident in their own ability to lead this society to a place where open ideas, a just playing field, and equal opportunities become the national way of life.
How do we get there?
Like we saw from our great citizens who fought for decades for free and fair elections, without let-up, we, too, must not allow evil to silence us. We must keep at it. We must continually voice our concern about State control over the media and the airwaves, over poor governance, over our citizens suffering from illiteracy.
It’s necessary for citizens who think straight to speak up, to stand up and to wrestle the national interest away from men and women of poor character.
Good men and women must take control of the reins of our society, not for personal gain or power or even influence, but simply to ensure that the Guyanese society becomes a noble nation, marking our way through history not with crassness, but with the lofty national character of a noble people.
Thankful we are for such leaders as Alissa Trotz, Clive Thomas, Ralph Ramkarran, Anand Goolsarran and Henry Jeffrey. These refuse to settle into their comfort zone, silent. They speak out. They write and exhort us to lift ourselves.
Yet, it’s sad that the younger generation seems to lack this kind of fortitude. When a generation grows up under a stultifying system, its members cannot see a higher worldview. So we see our popular culture degraded, for example, because our society refuses to foster high culture of refined accomplishments. We settle so comfortably into our fallen state.
A few souls struggle against the tide, but most people just carry on.
Some people rail against the crassness, but do so in their own crass way, fuelling the problem.
We must encourage the ones who, with refined and cultured character, exhort us to the high road.
Building a society, and especially a noble society, calls for careful planning, strong character, deep vision, and an abiding passion and belief in the nobility of who we are as the Guyanese people.
We saw such character in people like David de Caires and Dr Cheddi Jagan and Walter Rodney.
Today, who takes on the responsibility and the burden of this nation’s advance on his or her shoulders, like these great men who gave us so much?
We must take responsibility for where we are as a nation, and refuse to blame “them”, or get caught up in battling against the poor souls who exercise cunning and deceit to grab the reins of power, mostly for selfish, and clannish, gain.
As Guyanese, let us look for and see our leading citizens, let us seek out our people who develop noble natures and good conscience and excellence of character and professional ethics and moral fortitude, and entreat these great souls to lead us.
We need men and women who would guide and mould us into the future, who could envision that place where the Guyanese nation is capable of growing to, and who selflessly pave the way for us to design the path to take us there.
We’ve wasted so many decades.
But this is our time, and let us not let up. Let us take guard, stand sturdy, and wrestle our land from ignoble souls.
Let us entrust ourselves as a people to those great Guyanese souls, those leaders, that we could trust and love, who harbour hearts of care and dedication to developing the Guyanese character.