As an international development professional and academic, I have studied and witnessed firsthand the effects of conflict, political instability, insecurity, poor governance, and sanctions (economic and political) on ordinary citizens in many developing countries around the world. For this reason, I am afraid of what is coming Guyana’s way if an illegitimate government is installed with the help of GECOM, the Guyana Police Force, and to a certain extent, the judiciary.
While the empirical evidence is bountiful, we do not have to look beyond Venezuela for signs of what is to come if an illegitimate government coupled with sanctions take full effect. There is little doubt in my mind that ordinary Guyanese of all walks of life will suffer. A few years ago, when I first saw Venezuelans lining up to buy food and medicine, my memory immediately jogged to when as a nine-year-old in the early 1990s, I lined up to buy tennis roll and bread from my neighbour’s bakery. In what seems like two lifetimes ago and in some ways, it is, I see history repeating itself all because of the selfish actions of a few rogue elements who are determined to sacrifice Guyana’s development gains and prospects by holding onto power in the most undemocratic way.
The illegal actions of these few individuals will no doubt set Guyana’s development trajectory back decades with or without oil. Why should any Guyanese tolerate such undemocratic behaviour that benefits only a few while sacrificing the many? The entire country will suffer irreparable damage that will destroy the prospects of current and future generations. And unlike the 1970s and 80s, Guyanese do not have Venezuela to turn to when the hard times arrive.
On recent trips to Ethiopia, Mali, and Uganda I have seen how ordinary people that lack democratic norms and independent institutions are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, conflict, and hunger. I do not wish this for Guyana, but the signs are ominous. From what has transpired thus far, it appears that the APNU-AFC coalition is hell-bent on holding onto power at all costs. We must not let this happen as this will be the beginning of the end of our basic human rights. If we allow our democratic rights and freedoms to be stolen, our economic wellbeing both as individuals and as a country will soon follow. Take it from someone who has spent considerable time in conflict, post-conflict, and less developed countries as a development practitioner.