On Tuesday night while delivering his second State of the Union address, President of the USA, Donald Trump, stated that “victory is not winning for our Party, victory is winning for our country”. He was obviously referring to political parties and that particular statement is not only profound for what it captures, but a pertinent reminder of what it means to be victorious and to be a leader.
After the campaign, the winner must act and be seen as a leader for all the people, not just for those who voted for him/her. Naturally there will be a very strong urge to pander to the base in an effort to please. In such situations, that pandering could manifest in tangible ways and may vary in extent much to the pleasure of the base and to the dismay of others. It’s a casualty of politics as securing the base for reelection becomes a foremost priority. It has to be managed when governing for all.
Many believe that the hard stance President Trump has seemingly taken on some domestic and international issues directly panders to his base. Whether well-intended or not, pandering to one’s base results in preferential treatment to a particular section of the populace which in turn festers resentment through a feeling of neglect by the other. This is on the heels of the irony where the winner always pledges to govern in the interest of all.
Rhetoric therefore becomes a natural product of the process of electioneering; the extent of which seems limitless. Here in Guyana, there is no shortage of campaign influences and sometimes the manifestation is a far cry from expectation. A quick review would show that the current Government when in Opposition promised slashing of Value Added Tax (VAT) and the Berbice Bridge tolls, better security and reportedly massive hikes in the price for paddy.
In reality, since taking office, the reduction in VAT and the bridge tolls were minuscule and rendered ineffective as a plethora of new taxes were instituted and many new items attracting a sales tax. Crime is rampant with official figures showing an increase and the rise in paddy prices remain a figment of one’s imagination. These as just a few areas to note and which especially for some fence-sitters, was luring enough to vote for the coalition.
After all, who does not want lower VAT rates and bridge tolls, better security and for the rice farmers, better financial rewards. As reality bites, many, including some who supported A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change, are balking at the flagrant reneging of promises. While there is always some amount of caution to condition expectation regarding campaign promises, many remain shocked over the Government’s inability to deliver thus far.
They are still stunned when the Government put itself first by increasing its comfort and then offered excuses why the same couldn’t have been done for the general citizenry. In addition, the Government’s employment practices suggest a preference for its support base at the expense of other Guyanese. Related accusations of discrimination have been made over the hiring of unqualified party supporters over suitable others.
Some professionals spoke about being purged because of their perceived political affiliation. Others have alleged discrimination along ethnic lines. Much of what has transpired since May 2015 was not expected to happen as premised upon campaign promises. The Government when in Opposition spared no efforts to boast of it being inclusive to allow everyone an equal opportunity to make a contribution in the interest of nation building. The razor-thin margin of victory in the 2015 elections could not have offered a better platform to any government to genuinely implement mechanisms for inclusivity. The establishment of the Social Cohesion Ministry was a good initiative expected to deliver on that expectation. It has not delivered and has been accused of becoming a political tool with its programmes designed to garner votes for the Government.
In other words, based upon the Government’s performance, it has failed to deliver its promises and it’s no surprise it is losing support. While there are various factors for that, one is the Government generally acting only in the interest of its support base even though some may have succumbed to despondency. Simply put, its promise of governing in the interest of and to represent the welfare of all Guyanese has been proven to be just rhetoric. US President Trump is right. The victory must not be just for the party but for the country.
For that to happen, the country and its people must be placed first through a demonstration of statesmanship and the banishing of political partisanship. This cannot be divorced from adherence to the rule of law. Public officers who engage in improprieties and public misconduct must not be seen as being protected. Unfortunately, the way some alleged incidents, and others known, have appeared to be handled, give rise to suspicion that such actions are condoned.
When all is taken into consideration, the Government could be hard-pressed to prove it is not partisan. That would mean that the victory was not for the country. If it were, the constitutionally triggered elections would not be delayed any further.