The two main political parties – the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) and the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC)— will soon wrap up their campaigns with each of them hosting their final rally this evening, marking an end of a fierce political battle between them.
In addition to hosting rallies across the country, both of them have presented manifestoes which detailed the plans and policies they hope to implement if they are given the mandate to form the next Government. Both parties have also had the opportunity to serve in Government before— first the PPP/C and now the incumbent APNU/AFC— so voters, no doubt, in making their decision, will compare their (parties’) track records while in office.
It could be recalled that in May 2015, using the ‘Change’ campaign slogan, the APNU/AFC coalition took the reins of power with an extremely thin majority – less than 5000 votes. When the new coalition Government was formed, it enjoyed some amount of goodwill as persons wanted to give them a fair chance to deliver what they promised on the campaign trail. However, most persons would agree that they squandered the opportunity to a great extent as many of the promises made were unfulfilled.
The Government, led by David Granger, was quickly caught up in one scandal after the other. It was also plagued by indecision and viewed as out of touch with reality, uncaring and even selfish. Many viewed the APNU/AFC members as opportunists and unsuitable for the ministerial positions they were offered. Barring a few, to date, many of them would have great difficulty convincing the nation that they were able to accomplish something tangible during their tenure. There was hardly any real plan or programme to create jobs, generate wealth, bring in new investors, improve social services or raise the quality of life for citizens.
In fact, the APNU/AFC’s almost five years in office will be remembered for the series of unpopular decisions made. For example, mere weeks after getting into office, ministers were given a 50 per cent raise in their salaries while public servants were literally begging for a decent wage. Then, there were the decisions to scrap the $10,000 cash grant for school children and to take away the water and electricity subsidies from pensioners. Also, not long after he was appointed Government’s point man on national security, Khemraj Ramjattan took a decision to enforce a 2 AM curfew for bars and night clubs. His justification for this move was that crime would be reduced. We are all well aware that crime in Guyana has taken on new dimensions and hence, requires modern, strategic thinking and effective policy decisions matched by the necessary resources to confront it. To date, the Minister, nor his Government has come up with any concrete plan to address the various forms of criminality affecting citizens. If that was not enough, perhaps the most unpopular of them all was the unilateral decision to move ahead with closing four sugar estates without carrying out any proper social and economic impact assessments and engaging industry stakeholders. In addition to the thousands of sugar workers that were placed on the breadline, hundreds of families have been pushed into poverty. Businesses and the national economy as a whole are also feeling the impact. There were several other unpopular decisions which saw families and communities suffering, but because of space, we will not list them here.
On Monday, March 2, citizens will go to the polls to elect a Government that they believe is best suited to manage the affairs of the nation. Our hope is that they will be allowed to do so in the most peaceful and uninterrupted manner. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has indicated its readiness and has given all assurances that all systems are in place to ensure the elections are free, fair and credible.
The national security agencies must also be on alert and fully prepared to deal with any disruption, not just for E-day, but the entire post-election period. We cannot allow our country to descend into chaos and confusion.
That said, having overcome the hurdle of holding the elections, it is hoped that the country; meaning all stakeholders including the new Government and other parliamentary parties, the business community and ordinary citizens will begin to focus on moving the country forward. We should demonstrate to the world that we can campaign and conduct elections peacefully, and when the results are out, we can then work towards achieving our development objectives as one.