Guyana now has to leap forward to modern development and transition from a primitive politics to political maturity. We must espouse a new mindset and dispensation. We must formulate and adopt a 20 year master-plan for transformation to developed nation status. Most
important, the nation’s leadership must be passed to the new generation.
The transformation we seek cannot be realized with our current politics that have been commandeered by dinosaurs. The old guard in both major political parties demonstrates tendencies of ownership of the government. They perpetuate themselves in office by frustrating rather than nurturing young leaders. They seem oblivious to the fact that the government belongs to the people, who elect them to be trustees, but that their trusteeship is transitory because the mantle belongs to the next generation.
Over 50% of the electorate is under age 50. Yet representation of this demographic across the nation’s decision-making apparatus has been chronically de minimis. The two major political parties embarked on a treacherous course in 2008. They amended the law to enable their party leaders to arbitrarily remove elected young leaders from parliament because of their independent, progressive thinking. The essence of that law was that ambitious young politicians who challenge the old guard will be cut down. The legislation was destructive to the nation’s leadership succession and dangerous to our democracy.
Guyana faces a perilous reality by design. It lacks visionary leaders with a big dream for long-term development and the fortitude to enact that vision into law to insulate it from partisan politics. Leaders also lack the willingness to mould a new generation of leaders to inherit the government and carry out the development strategy. We have a culture of only planning for the term of a government and political leader. There is hardly demonstrable interest in leadership succession.
Political leadership, constitutional offices and senior government policy positions are dominated by individuals from the bygone era. They have no young understudies. Moreover, young people in leadership positions are often undermined. This is true in both the political parties, national and local government and most recently in the judiciary.
Generally, our youth feel starved of leadership positions through which they can acquire requisite skills and experience that prepare them to assume political and governmental leadership roles. This dangerous reality permeates the Caribbean region. It is a paralysis that deprives our nation of contributions from our brightest and best minds. It has also held back transformation to a new political culture and governance philosophy. It has stymied political evolution. Guyana will not advance with the status quo. Hence we must take bold steps to eliminate this paralysis.
First, we must effectively end single party dominance by forcing issues-based political alliances to energize the population and secure electoral victories. Second, we must root out ethnic voting and ethnic dominance of political parties by teaching the populace the benefits of voting on issues, rather than party or ethnic affiliation. Third, we must forge a new political culture and dispensation to strengthen our democracy and cultivate good and accountable governance.
Young people will become the vehicle for this change if en masse they get involved in politics and civil society and demonstrate ownership of their government and society. In the United States, an organization called ‘Organization for America’ was formed to mobilize the grassroots to do just this. The result is history – they elected the first Black President, Barack Obama, twice, and achieved healthcare reform. Guyana needs its own version of ‘Organization for America,’ not as a confrontational force but to partner with the leadership of the government to help unite the people to advance one agenda for development.
I therefore I call on the intelligentsia, youth population and business class to take on the indispensable obligation to form a new political movement and enlist new generations of Guyanese with political dynamism, and mobilize the nation to support an agenda for development. The movement must be inclusive and diverse in all respects to defeat one party rule and ethnic dominance. It must help write a new charter to elevate our polity and transform our political culture. It must espouse constitutional reform to fortify our democracy and build a more just and equitable society. It must teach the people to be stakeholders of the nation’s destiny by becoming active participants of our democracy so that together we can build a more cohesive, ideal society for posterity. Equally important, the movement must promote policies to spur economic expansion and wealth generation to lift Guyanese from poverty to prosperity.
This political resonance will propel our nation forward to developed nation status in this generation. If we chart this course together, the movement will inspire a vision that transcends governments and political parties. Guyana is ripe for such a new political movement. I call on our young leaders to emerge and take up this challenge.
Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy