Unenthusiastic, unconcerned and uninformed are just a few words to describe some of the outlooks on the upcoming Local Government Elections. While a section of the population is genuinely interested and enthused about voting and the chance to represent their communities, there is another section that simply does not care. And after I recently engaged in dialogue with a number of people, it seems that the pessimists and naysayers outnumber the people who are interested in participating. Or perhaps I picked some of the most doubtful, distrustful and indifferent people to talk to.
Local Government Elections resumed in 2016 after being delayed for 22 years. I wonder if the attitudes of people were similar in 1994, when the polls were previously held. Still, there is no excuse that holding the elections was disregarded for all those years.
It is quite peculiar that often when the people possess the most power, they refuse to acknowledge or own it. Complaints about the problems in our society are constant. Politics, crime, the cost of living, healthcare and education are some of the prominent topics our people often moan about. Many have become great commentators on our struggles, whether by engaging in discussions in social circles, letters to the newspapers or writing epistles on social media. The number of people who complain but often appear devoid of any ideas about how to fix our issues are too many. Some have permanently assumed the role of critic or are simply pessimistic.
While hashtags and shares on social media do often make an impact and can inspire change, it seems like many of the people in private conversations or on social media do not want to actively participate in helping to change the reality. Instead, they expect others to magically fix the problems.
‘Sheeple’ is a term used to describe docile people who are easily led and unfortunately many Guyanese can be described as such. However, sharing concerns or criticisms are a part of the process of progress and the right of the people – it is always better to speak than remain silent when there are issues that are disturbing us. When we remain silent for too long, we can do more harm to ourselves and the collective.
We need more people with innovative ideas to help in moving this country forward. We need especially young minds that have not been corrupted by political agendas, even though they may be few and far in between because we grow up in a culture where we are moulded to either support one political party or the other. But things may be changing since many young people appear to be more liberal and, therefore, more willing to voice their concerns about the issues rather than being concerned with the faces that represent a particular political party or group.
There are many brilliant minds among our people, but some may not be aware of their abilities to transform or are not given the platform. Local Government Elections, however, provide a great platform. The business of moving the country forward is the responsibility of the collective but it often appears that that those in government possess absolute power. Sadly, often when our votes are cast and the seats are won, our representatives’ consultations with the people end or dwindle. The evidence is clear that most of our leaders often engage the people only when they need their votes, but once they have been elected the barriers between them and the people are erected.
Those are some of the reasons many of the people are not inspired to vote in the Local Government Elections. Some simply have no interest. Some are people who have a history of not voting while others were disappointed with their elected leaders from 2016. Many claimed that they never saw their councillors and they did nothing to improve their communities. Others stated that the representatives were seen and made a number of promises but never fulfilled them. The people seemed to have quickly lost faith in their councillors. While for years Guyanese have voted for some of the same corrupt leaders because of race and party loyalty, there seems to be a different attitude when it comes to Local Government Elections. Maybe the difference is that people are closer to their local government representatives, know many of them personally and so are less willing to forgive their errors or wait around for them to fulfill their duties.
Still, it is unfortunate that many seem to have decided not to participate in the elections. What about the new people who are contesting? Especially the young people who have decided to take a bold step. Don’t they deserve a chance to be heard and to represent their communities? Don’t they deserve the ear and cooperation of most, if not all, of the people in their various constituencies? They certainly do.
During the campaign for the last Local Government Elections, the candidates seemed more visible. There were debates held in various parts of the country and on television. This year, that seems to be missing based on the information I received. No debates are planned but candidates have been invited to speak on local television stations, such as the National Communications Network (NCN). Many have also done interviews on radio and, of course, they have the responsibility to campaign in their communities and ensure that they are heard by the people.
It is unfortunate that at this point in our history many have lost interest in the local elections—or maybe the interest was never there before, partly because for 22 years people could not participate and so still fail to see their importance.
I hope that I am wrong, but what I am sensing is that the turn out to this month’s polls might be even less than what was recorded the last time. Nevertheless, those who have decided to seek to represent their communities should be commended. Those who plan to vote have the responsibility to know the people seeking to represent them. There is still time for those who are not hopeful or do not want to vote to find out who the candidates are and learn what they stand for. And they can also make sure that when they are elected that they are held accountable. Hopefully, before November 12th those unsure about voting see a glimmer of hope that will persuade them to head to the polls.