Democracy is more than fair elections

Stabroek News
August 2, 2001

Dear Editor,

The constant regurgitation of the notion that democracy was returned and institutionalized in Guyana in 1992 when the People's Progressive Party returned to the helm of political power is but one of the many misleading sophisms confusing the Guyanese people at this intricate juncture. There was a return to fair elections but democracy is more than that.

The separation of the PPP and the formation of the PNC in the 1950s along with the squalor of ethnic politicking that followed created a primordial violation of the quiddity of the philosophical implications of democratic thought. Democracy, contrary to the thinking of some, never implied the isolation of a collective voice because it is a minority voice. It is entirely opposed to the suppression of minorities and minority opinion. If a minority is suppressed or silenced, democracy becomes a tyranny. The aim of political democracy is to recognize the rights of man in regard to political power.

During the PNC regime a significant portion (majority) of the population felt maneuvered out of the political structure. This was sustained by a series of rigged elections. However, when fair elections were restored in 1992, while this group long in indignation reveled in triumphalism, the other significant portion of the population began to feel isolated from political power. This happened because Westminster sees this group as minority and not substantial enough to determine the helm of political power. As a result, the incongruity between the philosophical implications of democracy and the Guyanese political reality was continued in 1992.

This reality has to be highlighted and re-highlighted because it makes up the key destabilizing element within the society, not the euphemisms on "Marginalization and Discrimination". In effect, the majority group determines the Government. When this is placed into a context where the majority group only outnumbers the minority group by a minimal percentage and where there are sharp racial and political cleavages chaos is the only outcome. How can any progressive society advance with such a discombobulating arrangement?

This Guyanese reality isn't driven by racist impulses but is based on the historical social and political orientation. One doesn't have to be a Professor of Political Science or Psephology to be able to see the intensity of this predicament. The reality is glaring. Guyana has always been among the richly endowed countries in the Caribbean and Latin America in terms of natural and human resources, the international and donor agencies have always been relatively supporting, yet her vast potential has always been illusive while ethnic strife dominates. Commonsense suggests that something is deeply wrong with our adapted paradigm of Governance.

Only a nation suffering from chronic masochism would wish to treat the cardinal impediment of the society with so much obscurity. As our behavior departs further from the "challenge and response" impulse of the human kind, it puts into serious question our psychological health. The Guyanese people have to arise from their indolence and slumber and recognize that this philosophical violation of democracy that exists in our society breeds the virulent disease of ethnic insecurity and is sustained precisely by the anachronistic nature of the treatment, the intransigent holding on to the totality of Westminster.

Yours faithfully,
Amar Panday