The announcement last week by the Minister of Agriculture of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the sugar industry was welcomed with an equal measure of relief and enthusiasm in the Corentyne. It did not take long however for both to be transformed into dismay as the list of appointees was revealed. It seems that the Minister could not find a suitable candidate from the community that bore the brunt of the PPP’s depredations in sugar over the last ten years to balance the technocratic intent with a democratic instinct.
Our understanding of contemporary democracy is book ended by Aristotle, on the one hand, and our own Sir Arthur Lewis, on the other. In the former, democracy is made to yield to a polity on grounds that a mixed constitution brings into play a variety of opinions that balance extremities in favour of a middling “articulation.” In the latter individual elements (democracy/oligarchy for example) are transcended by a mixture of rules and procedures that become the source of core principles out of which is born the common assumptions and practices that induce commitment and compliance. In the latter, after considerable refinement, we now accept, as a matter of course, that those who are likely to be affected by a decision must participate in its making either directly or through their direct representatives.
It does not seem reasonable, then, to assume and expect that the residents of the Upper Corentyne, whose families and communities were economically and socially eviscerated by the PPP’s arrogance, corruption and bad management should take a ringside seat and look on once more as their future is decided for them without the capacity to influence the outcome. It would be, at best, paternalistic, at worse imposition.
Moreover, if this is the political frame in which the new democracy is to be written we may be in for a bumpy ride.