It should go without saying that 2019 is probably not the kind of the year we anticipated prior to 21st December 2018, the day the government was crippled and party loyalists leapt to stand astutely with their respective political allegiances. So far, the “happy and prosperous new year” has been plagued by polarized political allegiances steeped in racism and divisive politics. This ought to come as no surprise. History has taught us how an election year will bring out the worst in many of us. It has illustrated how many of us relish words of unity and togetherness in our lives with our Facebook captions and neighborly conversations, until the bells of election start to toll. History has taught us many things yet we seem unwilling to learn – or perhaps, “unlearn” the harmful cultural attitudes we have cultivated.
Division and discrimination are largely the legacy of white colonizers who knew that there is strength in numbers and this dissection allowed them to maintain power and control. Behavioral traits we see transported to this day with institutionalized racism, unequal opportunity and political manoeuvres designed to exploit our division. But for how much longer will we remain mere spokes in the wheels that drive political ascension to power?
On the heels of the decision upholding the no-confidence vote by Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George-Wiltshire, the government moved to the Court of Appeal, and, to round out the judicial Ping-Pong, a move to the CCJ by the Opposition is currently being sought. In the meantime, a nation braces itself for an election history we will never forget - one where our two political titans enter the arena to solicit support and subsequent victory.
Until such time however, every party has an opportunity to design the kind of foundation on which to base their would-be government. We have an opportunity to critically examine such a foundation; a task we ought to take seriously. What we do not need are recycled promises and hyperbolic assurances, but development proposals tailored to our needs, rights and growth as a people and a nation.
Many often forget that true power lies in the voters – we go out to the polling stations in our numbers, we persevere to provide food and education for our families, we work hard and endure taxes as an investment in our country. We are challenged by the issues in health care, the justice system, human rights violations, racial insecurity and even threats to our sovereignty even as we try to maintain safety and a sense of security in our communities. While it may have been easy to secure our vote, it should be difficult to retain our support. Our leaders must not forget us.
A huge bloc of votes belong to the youths, a sentiment and fact hammered through every publication, editorial and political proclamation these past few weeks. One notion political contenders should disabuse themselves of, however, is that a handful of youthful faces do not guarantee support from the youths. Additionally, youths do not simply want a youthful communicator who can communicate in the lingo. Youths demand a party that truly prioritizes and understands them; one that understands what it feels like to excel at secondary and tertiary education yet unfulfilled when the time comes to embark on their career path. When youths lament unemployment, we do not expect the government to hire us to work in industries we did not pursue – that is not what we dreamt of as children. We expect job opportunities to be facilitated by promoting both public and private sector investments in areas that make full use of the education we have spent our entire lives thus far acquiring. Otherwise, the investments our families make in us will redound to the benefit of greener pastures abroad.
While the current government has done well in the provision of scholarships these past few years, have we considered whether jobs are available in the funded areas of study? Have these scholarships been designed to supply the industries we crave? Perhaps more data and reports such as the recent IDB study suggesting an emphasis on health and education professionals ought to be considered in an effort to steer our workforce to cater to the needs of our nation. Are these questions asked and answered?
“Youth oriented governance” means laying the bricks for strong educational pursuits in vast and diverse areas of study and subsequent investment in the creation of jobs and opportunities in a system that is governed by principles of equal opportunity, non-discrimination and particularly, youth participation in its legal, social and economic spheres.
With oil revenues on the horizon, what every Guyanese wants, or should want rather, is the building of trust. We simply want a government we can trust to be transparent and accountable. We want the kind of development which sees leaders putting their trust in the same public educational institutions they administer to educate their own children and the same public medical institutions they run to care for their own. Within the past few weeks of 2019, children and babies are dying at our Public Hospital under neglectful circumstances. Perhaps we do not necessarily need pay-outs or immediate transformation but overtime we need visible and progressively higher standards of accountability, education, medicine and security.
There is a hunger for leaders with the vision and innovation to design comprehensive, multifaceted solutions to diversify our economy, promote economic growth and development that is measurable by our standard and quality of living; to re-build much needed trust in our government institutions and inspire unity in an otherwise fractured system. We need a government that understands what it means to govern in the interests of the people and not simply in preservation of the party. The task is to lead Guyana with members of government who understand principles of discipline and accountability while upholding our Constitution as the supreme law of the land with fairness and equality for all Guyanese, absent of the controversies and political games between political opponents which stunt progress and the stability of our nation in the eyes of the world.
Whether you are first time, infrequent or regular voter, or a political leader, I urge you not to forget the power of the ballot. We need governance that includes us in budget preparation, community development, constitutional reform and youth-oriented development. This is not about denouncing political players. Far be it from me to do so. This is about rebuilding trust between political players and voters and how we can take steps to get there.
Heal Guyana is a registered, not-for-profit organisation which functions as a civil society platform that focuses on empowering Guyanese and influencing citizens toward positive behavior change.
The views expressed herein are those of the Author; they do not necessarily reflect the views of Heal Guyana or its Executives.