Mayors should be directly elected by the citizens

Dear Editor,

Although it does not require further elucidation, my name is Mark Anthony Benschop, and I am campaigning to become the next Mayor of the capital city of Georgetown. Yes, there is a nuance to my proclamation that I am running for Mayor, as opposed to seeking a seat on the city council from which body, according to our local government rules, the Mayor is selected. I make this affirmation not only to illuminate the end goal of my political campaign, but also to make clear my conviction that it is time for the local government laws to be changed so that chief executives of municipalities are directly elected by the citizens of those localities. It is time for democracy to reach right down into the grass roots, and confer this kind of power upon the citizens of our municipalities.

It has become a fashion among certain political circles and interests to describe the kind of activism I have been involved in for the past 15 years, and especially since freedom from my political incarceration, as radical. “Mark Benschop is a radical” they pronounce, as if to diminish and explain away all of the atrocities my activist involvement has brought to the fore, and my willingness to brave the environment of political vindictiveness, repercussions, physical violence and even death threats, in order to lend my support to those whose citizenship rights are being trampled upon. But lest we become slaves to the Orwellian ‘group speak’ orientation that manipulates words and terms in order that they may fit nicely into a particular political message, we need to understand that being radical does not mean being wrong, being against the rule of law, being averse to the essential principles upon which democracy is founded. Thus if the norm in our social responsibility and response to cries for help from the vulnerable are displayed in attitudes of silence, being fearful, utilizing political ‘group speak’ in our public reaction to entreaties for succour from those at the very bottom of the social and economic pyramid in Guyana, then colour me radical, and I will wear that label with honour until my last moment on earth.

Editor within the scope of my political and civic responsibility and commitment, is the interest of all the citizens of Guyana in general, and the citizens of Georgetown in particular. Whether you are the owner of a business or a worker employed by that business, I consider it to be my sacred duty to be concerned about your interest, the quality of your life, your right to all freedoms and processes whether they are constitutionally or legally prescribed. But I carry the commonsense view that an organism or society that is cancerous on the inside will soon be consumed on the outside. And so the development of our city must involve the participation of all of its citizens, and all must have the opportunity, through hard work and commitment, to realize that standard of living to which we all aspire.

No, I do not promise or argue that everyone can and will reach such realization. What I will argue for as a right for all, is the equal opportunity to be a contender in such pursuits. Martin Luther King Jr in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ pointed out the interrelatedness of human communities, the construction of co-dependency that is essential to the existence of all human communities. Regardless of how difficult and politically or socially inexpedient this might appear, as Guyanese, “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” This interrelationship becomes even more important as we are broken down into smaller geographic units and nestings. Businesses cannot flourish and be productive when the buying power of the customer base is inhibited by a lack of disposable income; when the vast majority of that customer base can barely eke out an existence on a daily basis, which describes the current living standard of the vast majority of the citizens of Georgetown. I do not profess to be an expert on economic theory, but even I understand that perhaps the most important relationship in economic activity is the co-dependency between the consumer demand for goods, and the supplier generation of such goods. So the greater the buying power of the consumer, the more goods can be generated and sold. I am mindful as I go about my campaign to become the next Mayor of Georgetown that all are important in the grand scheme of development, and no one, no entity, can be shunted aside for political or other expediency. I am eager to become a transformational Mayor of the City of Georgetown.

Yours faithfully,

Mark A Benschop

Head of the Independent Party

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