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OPINION: British High Commissioner and Existing Voters List

Last Updated on Sunday, 13 November 2022, 7:00 by Denis Chabrol

by GHK Lall

I like to think that there are some things that we can actually decide for ourselves, and then do for ourselves.  Clearly, my outlook is either the poorest form of flattery, or the worst kind of self-deception.  The British High Commissioner to Guyana took that away from us, and in so doing exposed us for who, how, and what we are.  All of Guyana, from President to the lowest citizen are now reduced to dependents, who can’t think for themselves, work out anything among themselves, and look back with pride and self-respect, and then say that we did that on our own, and it is a work of the best wisdom that we can manage.  It is our handiwork.  The longer President Ali remains mute on this abomination from the UK High Commissioner about voters list, the more he would register as being complicit in what was publicly articulated.

I make my position chandelier clear: the British High Commissioner has no right, no place, no duty to venture where she did.  It is appalling and deplorable, to deploy diplomatic diction.

Regarding the British High Commissioner’s foray into the murky, nasty waters of what constitutes an acceptable voters list, to actually pronounce on that much-disputed list, I congratulate Her Excellency for stepping forward to take the baton of diplomatic leadership in Guyana from her sister, cousin Sarah Ann Lynch, the American Ambassador on her way out of Guyana.  Clearly, Guyana for all of its claims to modernity, democracy, and national sovereignty needs timely, uninterrupted assistance with its diapers.  Things are this bad, as unbelievable as it sounds.

Where is President Ali, when such a visible intrusion occurs, with what is now routine apparent casualness, in the affairs of Guyana?  What does the Leader of the Opposition have to say about what the British grand dame arrogated onto herself relative to what passes for a voters list?  Does civil society not see anything wrong here?  Why go to the trouble of arduous constitutional reform (already lacking authenticity), when others are calling the shots here, bringing their own judgments as what pertains, and what should be?

We flung the door wide open for national elections many times before because we are so wretched in our deliberations, so scornful in our evaluations of truth and trust in one another, and so dogged in not dealing with anything that we may have to offer to each other.  The open door has never been closed, and in now walks-indeed, rushes-without any deference to the protocols of etiquette, Her Excellency, the British High Commissioner, to grace us with her Anglo-Saxon perspicacity and sticking a stiff upper lip in Guyana’s business.

As resistant as I am to any such foreign presences in the family matters of Guyana, I can muster some understanding, and look the other way for national elections.  But for the deep domestic back and forth, and resolution, of Local Government Elections, I draw a hard, red line.  NO!  No way!  Where does this stop?  How long will this go on?  If national elections in 2018-20, and now Local Government Elections in 2023 (maybe), then what next?

Just the other day, His American Highness, Alistair Routledge, took it upon himself to address the most sensitive issue in Guyana with incomparable boldness, and not a single Guyanese saw anything wrong with what he articulated.  It was about what is “right government” for Guyana.  Most eerily, that came across to me as an ominous pronouncement of which group, and which leaders, fit the special bill of what is considered to be the “right government” for Guyana.  Yet few citizens of this society saw anything wrong, or took umbrage, to that brazen excursion into what is best left to the inhabitants of a sovereign nation.  What will His Majesty, Herr Routledge come here and next declare to the satisfaction of all Guyanese (definitely more than half of it)?  That we have the ‘right EPA’?  That we have the right tax regime that applies to Exxon, and that we would be dead wrong to tamper with that provision?

Thinking of these developments, a rash of other questions flow.  Who is to decide that we have a clean list of voters or not, if not us, only us?  Who here has given the unspoken clearance for outsiders to feel comfortable to take it upon themselves to dive feetfirst into our business?  To delve into any of the domestic differences that wound us and tear us apart?  Are we a sovereign nation or not?  I assert, I now attest, that we are not.  We just can’t be.  Not when any and everybody can come here and dictate to us what is “right government”, then what is an acceptable list of voters.  There is no value to that throwaway line of with proper “safeguards”, which is assessed for what it is.  That is, to put a neat ribbon for balance and the appearance of neutrality, and not going overboard.  The next thing we will know is that the High Commissioner will lecture us on ganja laws and traffic ones also.

Without a doubt, the British High Commissioner overstepped her duty, and to the level of detail she took in her hands.  In another era, she would be considered to have overstayed her short presence.  There! It is public, and every Guyanese is now made aware of what I think and where I stand.  Curiously, I am not hearing any offense taken by outraged Guyanese about ‘foreign interference’ and ‘internal meddling’ and ‘domestic destabilizing’ and ‘diplomatic overzealousness.’  It is now clear that this oil has transformed us from people into perversities, where honesty and dignity are concerned.  In all seriousness, was Cheddi Jagan that off the reservation, when he railed against those dabbling outsiders, employing the same or other terms?  He paid his prices.  Ours have just begun, and they are going to be worse than “28 years of darkness.”  This is what oil does to Guyanese.

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November 2022