BY GHK Lall
Now that Nominations Day has come and gone, there was little by way of surprises. I observed the usual, which has characterized elections farces in this country, forever it seems. I expand on some thoughts and share for the public to ponder.
Something is wrong with the local political campaign picture; many things that point to more than individual follies and foolishness, or the loud emptiness, which are so much an intrinsic feature of Guyana’s elections landscape. I furnish a simple illustration to convey my thinking. There are elections scheduled for early March, so early that the date might just as easily be accepted as very late in February, for all intents and purposes.
Now if someone is running for city councilor (note the much smaller level), I submit that for something as provincial and narrow as this that the last quarter of the preceding year is nowhere enough in terms of time to emerge before the public. Or with regard to preparing, understanding, conditioning, familiarizing, strategizing, and reaching for and to the people — the voters — with the issues, the challenges, and the visions involved, and of what is personally offered that is distinguishing and, hopefully, appealing.
It is more than not enough; it is insulting to the process, office, and the people intended to be represented. Arriving with a loud bang in November/December for an early March election for city councilor is contemptuous towards and dismissive of the expectations and aspirations of the subject constituency. It is arrogant; and, to be candid, utterly disrespectful, if not outright mindless. I remind that this is running for city councilor only.
At this time, however, we are talking about more than city councilor; there are those who are talking, posturing, appealing, and racing for national office. For a possible presence in the nation’s lawmaking body. For Prime Minister and, ultimately, for Head of State. And so we turn up — our newcomers, our aspirants, our rulers-in-waiting — with copyrighted, well-rehearsed hymns about servanthood, patriotism, constitution, incorruptibility, and change. Who do these occasional patriots believe they are fooling? Perhaps, more pointedly, what manner of boneheads do they take us to be? Who are they taking for granted, and taking for yet another ride?
At the very least, two to three years of backbreaking, self-sacrificing spadework and heavy lifting is mandatory, our moonlight patriots come charging over the horizon with three months left to impress us. Electoral superstars they evaluate themselves to be, in the romance that is Guyanese elections, with everybody falling head over heels in love at them, and at first sight, too. I admit that the Guyanese voter — settled biases and preference aside — is one of those rare species, a dodo bird of fascinating proportions. But nobody, no untested, no tenderfoot, political aspirant, should mistake them for being dumb and stupid at the same time.
The fanfare of five minutes fame for these thoughtless pretenders fade into the pathos that is the electoral process in this country. In some respects, it smells of the sordid, sometimes of the vulgar. For if candidacy for legislative presence, or high office, is treated with this degree of frivolity and disdain from the inception, then what is there that is new and different? What is there, if not new and possibly similar devils? Unknown closet devils?
They venture forth from some unknown space at these times; they form a tragic aspect of things electoral in Guyana. Tragic because if this is what is tendered as representing hope, the different, and change, then the peoples of this society are possibly better off, perhaps, with those devils they know, those that they have had to live with, as terrible as that is in the recollection and contemplation. This is how pathetic we are, that even those who come bringing the gifts of themselves leave a long and wide streak of the disturbing, the distasteful, and the disreputable in their arrival, their short stay, their quickly forgotten wake.
If this is the best that we can produce and deliver, then we are not merely lost, but palpably doomed. Let us not fixate on powers and machineries who have things locked down. Let us say that electoral participation and contribution demand that the truly idealistic, the truly patriotic, and the pioneering and self-sacrificing, the really thoughtful and the deep step forward and intrigue us. What we have had repeatedly and by the planeload is the empty, the shallow, the limited, and the just plain retarded.
These people can’t represent anyone. I would argue that the only one they desired to represent is themselves. As they hold them themselves out as our rescuers, we really are retracing steps and coming full circle. I am glad that some are gone, with more to go. I move on into the realm of the knowns and brace for whatever new tricks they trot out this time. For there will be those, too.
Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.