DAY OF DECISIVE DECISION
TOMORROW, March 2, Guyana goes to the polls in what will be her first national elections since becoming a petro state. The forecasts are that, with a small population and an estimated eight billion barrels of oil, Guyana is poised to be the single richest country in the world.
The stakes therefore are very high. Diverse interests have been at work to undermine our sovereignty, to grab our government, and to control our new-found oil wealth.
For the Guyanese electorate, tomorrow will be a day of decisive decision. Voters will decide whether they would re-elect the incumbent APNU+AFC Coalition Government, or throw their votes behind some other party.
ARITHMETIC OF TURNOUTS
Judging from the arithmetic of turnouts at political meetings and rallies, the two main contenders in the 2020 race are the APNU+AFC and the PPP/C. Yesterday, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and I went to Aishalton, one of the villages in the South Rupununi. A large gathering of our Indigenous peoples from several villages journeyed to what turned out to be a mini rally. They were decked out in Coalition colours, and they proudly raised APNU+AFC flags.
This has been the response to the APNU+AFC in all other hinterland areas – in Lethem, Mabaruma and Moruca – where, with some justification, the Coalition could claim that it has provided facilities that have changed the lives of the inhabitants for the better.
Since 2015 the Granger Government has delivered, within the limitation of time and resources, and as best as it could, essentials such as land, house lots and houses, potable water, electricity, roads, bridges, airports and air-strips, improved medical and educational facilities, etc.. It has enhanced security and protection of citizens, and expanded broadcasting and telecommunications. These will certainly convert tomorrow into votes.
The day before, Thursday, women came out in large numbers to rally support for President David Arthur Granger. Most of the attendees were young women. The reason for this support is self-evident. During his first term, President Granger’s government initiated several schemes and projects that benefitted young people, who now have greater access to skills training and gainful employment. He has announced plans for a Decade of Development that will be founded on education. University education will be free, and all outstanding loans, due and payable by graduates, will be forgiven. Ahead, there is a plan to give a cash transfers to parents with children in school.
For kids who are in primary and secondary schools, they have stars in their eyes knowing that they have a paternalistic President. From his birthday gifts President Granger has distributed to the nation’s children buses, boats, bicycles, breakfasts, together with boots, books and book-bags. By so doing, President Granger has facilitated access, attendance and achievements (Triple As) among our pupils and students.
So, women and youths are going to make a decisive decision tomorrow whether they will re-elect this leader, who has placed their concerns and needs at the top of the nation’s development agenda, or whether they will throw their votes behind someone else. They will decide whether to vote for someone they know and could trust, or to gamble on a dark horse, or some other new-comer.
Under our system, the party with the plurality of votes wins the elections; and the leader of the winning list becomes the President and forms the government. Tomorrow the electorate will compare and balance the image of the presidential candidates. It could be a comparison between facts and fakes. And, from revelations brought to the fore during the campaign, voters have a pretty good idea about the candidates, a leading contender in particular, who suffers from a major character deficit.
When I resigned from the PPP in 2011, I had distanced myself from the “fakes” and the “frauds” who were parading as leaders of Jagan’s party. The Guyanese people also distanced themselves from the corrupt cabal. That resulted in the PPP/C losing its majority in the National Assembly. Four years later, the PPP/C lost the government. That was its first major defeat after an unbroken period of 19 years in office.
At the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections, the PPP/C lost the government to the combined APNU+AFC, which formed a coalition just two months before those elections. The 2015 election constituted that decisive day when the Guyanese people broke from the single-party tradition to elect a six-party coalition. I have no reason to feel that Guyanese voters would return to one-party rule. The Coalition has vindicated the faith placed in it by the Guyanese people. In just over four years it has chalked up an amazing scoresheet of socio-economic successes for a first-term government. It has promoted Guyana in the critical eyes of the world as a stable, orderly and peaceful multi-party democracy. It has restored investors’ confidence.
Buoyed by two successive majority votes in 2011 and 2015, the Coalition seems to be trotting confidently towards a third win – the Triple Crown – in race-horse jargon.
This is my 12th elections, and I am not worried about the outcome. I would be worried though if the losers were to see the results only as a defeat, and not as a challenge to rise above partisan, ethnic-driven obsession for power. The post-election agenda must include inclusive politics, and bi-partisan cooperation to achieve in Guyana genuine national unity. Towards that strategic goal, I re-commit myself.
For now, I urge all Guyanese to keep the peace, and to ensure that these elections are credible. They should resist all attempts by elements to buy or suppress their votes. Each vote must be a declaration of the love of our people for Guyana. That is why they have to choose wisely.
La Victoria siempre!