The dominance of politics Editorial

Stabroek News
December 28, 2001

In the transition from imperial rule to independence and in the aftermath there was inevitably a concentration on politics and power. The sudden development of a new political class and the transfer of power, framing a constitution, learning to run things ourselves, finding out more about ourselves has taken time and energy.

Seen in the fullest perspective that transition is still in place. Perhaps one of the important lessons we should have learnt is that politicians are not all powerful, as we might naively have thought when that (new class( took power. They have it is true the considerable powers of government, they can do a great deal of damage. But they cannot develop the country, they can only, if they are wise enough, build a framework in which development will take place. It is businessmen, farmers and producers of all kinds who develop a country with their imagination and investment and years of hard work. Politicians are facilitators, they can help to create a peaceful country with good educational and health facilities in which people will want to live and invest and expend their full energies. But despite what they may think or say, that is the real limit of their power.

A mature political leader must start by understanding the limits of his power. He must recognise that people must be respected in their own right, their needs and fears, not manipulated or bullied. Otherwise, whatever they may say publicly they will not pull their weight and give of their best. In an earlier era, as someone noted recently, people were mouthing false praise for the leader as they finalised their plans to emigrate and up to the time they stepped on the plane. Public lying and pretending became the norm. Most people detested what was happening but few people were prepared to say so. The apparently all powerful leader was creating an economic and spiritual desert, his power was in reality a sham.

The wise leader seeks to empower people, he sees himself as their agent. He succeeds if he gives people confidence and a clear vision of a viable and settled future, in which his role is incidental or non-existent. That is the extremely difficult but not impossible task.

After 35 years of independence it is time for reflection, time for a better understanding of limitations and possibilities, time for the wisdom to recognise that our political experience as an independent country has been primarily negative and that we need to transcend this.