By any measure, democracy can be described as a governing system in which the central power is vested with the voting population. In such a political system, government, and the officials that make up such a government, are legally and morally obligated to attend to the needs of its citizens. By extension, in a democratic system, supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by the people or by their elected representatives under a free and fair electoral system.
Since our independence in May 1966, Guyanese have not really had a chance to experience a prolonged period of stable democratic government. The PNC, when in power, abolished the basic elements of democracy in its quest to build the Burnhamite dictatorship.
The PPP came into office amid a great deal of national and international support in 1992. The expectation was that with the democratic opening that occurred after the 1992 elections, PPP leaders would reconstruct the fragile Guyanese political system to create institutions that would ensure a democratic political order would be established. However, the opportunity to do so was woefully squandered by the ruling PPP, which mimicked in many ways the actions of the dictatorial Burnhamite PNC (now calling itself The Coalition).
This authoritarian entity is back in control, many of whose members are from the PPP and PNC. The APNU-AFC coalition is governed by the same undemocratic means that characterized the PNC. Much of the leadership style of the PNC and PPP is guided by a dictatorial desire to centralize political control both at the local and national levels.
In reality, the policies of the PPP, PNC and AFC have served to benefit a small group of loyalists and party elite, while the majority of the Guyanese people still live in poverty.
The AFC has become an abysmal failure. They came onto the scene promising to be an objective broker and they won the confidence of a healthy cross-section of the Guyanese support, both locally and from the Diaspora. However, they have now merged into the PNC apparatus and have completely lost all of their independent objectivity. Their supporters are at a loss as to where they now stand. The acceptable notion is that the only AFC members left are those currently in parliament.
The failure of the PPP, PNC to build a sustainable democracy in Guyana is compounded by a number of factors, all of which have contributed to the erosion of a democratic tradition in this young nation. Included among these factors are preferential treatment for loyal party supporters, the widening gap between rich and poor, a failed education system, the out migration of skilled people, an increased drug trafficking and money laundering, widespread corruption, and a very vindictive government that considers all non-supporters as enemies of the ruling party.
Democracy cannot be institutionalized in Guyana unless there is respect for democratic principles and some sharing of power. The PPP was removed from office because of its arrogance and corruption, among other unacceptable behaviours.
Corruption has not stopped under the coalition government. The situation continues to look hopeless under this regime with crime spiralling out of control and people being removed from their job on account of their race and political affiliation. This government has let down the population.
Guyana needs a government that can provide hope for the future, trust in its people and stability in government. It is only then that we can begin to establish a system that will work towards securing the social, political and economic interests of ALL Guyanese.
The United Republican Party (URP) has been appealing for a national unity government that will serve the interests of all. The URP will work with any political party to build and establish stronger democratic institutions; establishments which will serve the interests of all of Guyana’s citizens. The URP is committed to working with other local and regional organizations, international organizations, support groups and sympathetic governments to help keep Guyana on a democratic path.
We need to have a clear democratic system which will create conditions in our society that will enable all Guyanese to help transform our society. It is time we recognize the great potential of our citizens. More importantly, the URP will continue to work with its grass-roots supporters to build such a system from the bottom up, thereby creating a fair and no-discriminatory system.
Dr Vishnu Bandhu