VIEWPOINT: Opposition Leader speaks on International Day of Democracy

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 September 2022, 12:00 by Denis Chabrol

by Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton

My fellow Guyanese, today, 15th September, marks the United Nations International Day of Democracy. This observance calls on us to take stock of the state of democracy in our country. In Guyana, we both see and experience that democracy under the PPP/C regime is in deep crisis. And, even worse, our country is pointing in the wrong direction.

Under the PPP/C, the voices of citizens are increasingly being disrespected and ignored. State institutions either remain unestablished, are sidelined, or are hijacked by PPP hacks and yes-men. The media and civil society are being attacked for daring to criticize government’s bad attitudes and actions. The rule of law is being applied as a tool of discrimination and oppression. Our elections no longer inspire public confidence. In short, instead of democracy, the PPP/C practices a politics of exclusion and domination, fed by its arrogance, lack of principles, and disdain for the ordinary people. How have we sunk into this crisis? Why is our democracy unraveling rather than strengthening?
Fellow Guyanese, let us recall that our constitution sets us the goal of building two forms of democracy: inclusionary democracy and participatory democracy. The Preamble, in this regard, speaks of “concerted effort in national decision-making.” This goal is further enshrined in Article 13, which mandates us to increase opportunities “for the participation of citizens and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State”. Our constitution also enshrines a local democratic system and a broad range of fundamental human rights in the political, social and economic spheres.

This constitution is the product of the broadest stakeholder collaboration attempted in Guyana in recent times. Its drafters include the people themselves, parliamentary political parties, and representation from the major religions, the private sector, farmers, trade unions, and the Indigenous community.

Nevertheless, as a nation, we have come to realize several realities. We have realized that democracy is not what’s on paper, but what we experience as we live. We have realized that democracy is not a static condition, but must be a continuous building exercise. We have realized that democracy does not arrive with its key elements, such as the rule of law, wired in as guarantees. No, we now realize that guarantees can only become guarantees when we demand and fight to maintain them. Further, we have realized that democracy is corruptible, erodible, and reversible when left to those who seek power and wealth only for themselves, their families, and their cronies. And, most critically, we have realized that democracy is only as good as we, the people, are willing to get up, stand up, and strive to forge a better society.

Fellow Guyanese, together, we can and must rescue our nation from the PPP’s assault on our democracy. We must fight to save “THE SOUL” of Guyana. We therefore ask you to join us in building a new democratic Guyana Together, we have the power to do so. What do we mean by a new democratic Guyana? It is a society based on the understanding that, no matter how lofty the language and plentiful the promises in our constitution, it would mean little if citizens were not empowered politically, socially, and economically. Democracy means little if people are burdened daily with economic survival and social injustices. What good is freedom of expression without freedom from ignorance? What good is liberty without freedom from hunger and want? How could we establish democracy without a clean voters list ?
Therefore, our vision of a new democratic Guyana will be based on guaranteeing all Guyanese a high quality of life by, at minimum, eradicating poverty, expanding and lifting the middle class, reducing inequalities, and creating real opportunities for all. It would be based on a government that shows “NUFF RESPECT” to each and every citizen, group, and community.
We are convinced that only based on these values and guarantees could democracy flourish in Guyana. Democracy cannot and will not survive, let alone flourish, under a political regime of malevolence, arrogance, and control-freakism. It will not flourish in a country with high poverty levels, high cost of living, high unemployment rates, high infant and maternal deaths, malnourished children, and inadequate social services.

Together, we can and must build a better Guyana society, economy, and democracy.
Blessings to you and your family.