Our leaders must face the elephant in the room

Dear Editor,

 

Clichés and metaphors may be frowned upon by greater minds, but it is beneficial to call a spade a spade, and sometimes we need to shine the spotlight on the elephant in the room. Firstly, complex academic analyses of how Guyana arrived at this point are important, if we are to move forward and develop as a country. But the reality can be summarised quite simply: the PPP will not, under any circumstances, give up political power without a fight. Secondly, pro-democracy forces in Guyana must stop ignoring the obvious: we do not need more figureheads, personalities and party manifestos. Instead, we need fundamental structural and constitutional reform.

Editor, the question often arises why some members of the ruling class so determined to hold onto their offices? After all, democratic governments are replaced frequently elsewhere. Why do some in Guyana cling to their positions even in the throes of physical illness, in spite of international ridicule, public embarrassment and personal woes? Is Guyana somehow different? Is political power so addictive? But a spade remains a spade and the answer is really quite simple; the some of the allegations of corruption may have merit.

On the other side of the equation, pro-democracy activists need to acknowledge that shuffling candidates, writing long-winded manifestos, promoting personalities and touting expertise, will not cut it. Guyana’s history and that of other countries provide ample proof of the fact that we need changes to the very foundation of our system of government. Solutions will not be found by changing who governs. Instead, we need to fix how we are governed. We can no longer ignore the elephant in the room; we need constitutional reform.

We can, and do, spend lots of time assigning blame. The PPP may say that the opposition is unwilling to compromise; some in the APNU may allege that the AFC lacked forethought in tabling a no-confidence motion; some AFC supporters may, for various reasons, resist an alliance with the larger APNU. There is sufficient blame to go around, but such activities get us nowhere. So, what is the next step?

Once pro-democracy forces accept that extraordinary means must be employed to remove the PPP dictatorship, historical and academic data will become useful in formulating strategy. Leaders, therefore, must familiarise themselves with such. In the interest of brevity, I may summarise: civil society must be supported and strengthened; citizens must be empowered, by providing them with low-risk opportunities to show defiance (such as wearing particular colours); small-scale victories for democracy must be celebrated; low-risk protest, such as sick-outs must be organized; and the list goes on. Experts say that high-risk street confrontation must be avoided in the beginning, as better equipped dictators will always win in such circumstances. All of these activities must occur within a strategy of undermining dictatorship.

Editor, I had mentioned that there is presently enough blame. Perhaps, it is time to limit our exposure to blame in the future. One obvious way to do this is to jump-start the process of constitutional reform; our list-system, constituency representation, electoral processes, powers of the president, and other matters need attention. Our leaders must stop quibbling and face the elephant in the room.

 

Yours faithfully,

Mark DaCosta

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