Decentralisation of power is equally important

Stabroek News
August 23, 2001

Dear Editor,

In reading Mr Gossai's letter [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] condemning Dr Hinds' power sharing proposal (SN 8.21.01) I was struck with the idea that this doctoral candidate is operating under the influence of the same malady that he accuses the subject of his letter of having by presenting theory without providing a practical solution. He attempts to destroy Hinds' argument by positing that the implicit partiality of power must be assessed by the nation's leaders to gauge the owners of that power's need to exercise it.

I am going to assume that in this vein Gossai is talking about political power as manifested in a citizen of a democratic society by his or her power to elect his leaders by ballot. In a purely theoretical sense that sounds plausible as an argument, but if he tries to make that argument in the fabric of the practical political dialogue of Guyana's situation he can find at least the kernel of

the solution. Let me try to lead him to the answer that he asks throughout the rest of his letter.

The answer is that the power of which he speaks has not been given to the people of Guyana for decades. I accept that power is not neutral, but in given circumstances, it can be neutralised as it has been for us as Guyanese operating under the political conditions that have existed over the last 40 years or so. Poll Guyanese and ask them if they think that they have the power to change their circumstances through the ballot and I am sure that you would either be greeted with blank stares or a vehement `No!' The political climate that has pervaded the society is one that has taken that power away from the people and placed it in the hands of hand-picked followers of the leaders. What has magnified that neutralisation is the fact that the hand picking operates at the level of national governance so that the resultant power-stealing affects a larger group of people.

Let me here state that in my mind the concept of powersharing in not only a lateral concept, but also a vertical one. All power at the central government level is just as insidious as all power in the hands of the winner of the polls. The diversion of that power downwards is just as important to the provision of confidence that people matter, and that their voice matters, and that their vote matters. Let there be an environment in which Brother Mack and Auntie Lilly can use their power to influence whether their streets and drains will be cleaned once a week instead of once every two months and then we will see the exercise of the real power that Gossai talks about. That does not require a universal precedent, nor is it ad hoc, nor is it a myth.

When people can see that their power (in a democratic society) can affect their immediate existence then their political will is strengthened to make demands on their leaders to rule effectively. Further, it awakens them to the consciousness that they do not have to wait on the government to hand out programmes for them to have some quality of life.

Could it be that the present leaders are fearful of that reality?

Yours faithfully,
Jasper Adams