By Dr. Vishnu Bisram
Guyana has two kinds of Members of Parliament — geographic (25) coming from one of ten Regions varying in numbers (1-7), and national up (40) not representing any regions. There are 25 geographic MPs divided up among the regions allocated based on size of population minimum being one and maximum seven (Region 4 – greater Georgetown). The geographic MP (s) is (are) the representative (s) of a Region. The geographic MPs have failed their regions.
As I traveled around Guyana, I grieve at the lack of (and or poor) representation by most (though not all) of our geographic Members of Parliament for their constituents. There is a near total absence of representation by and responsiveness to peoples’ issues by most of these constituencies’ MPs. Only a few MPs help their constituents or show concerns for their problems and for lack of community development. There is a lack of compassion and empathy for the hapless constituents. The top up MPs may care more for people than their geographic colleagues.
People complained that the geographic MPs elected to serve their constituents hardly bother with them. The geographic constituents (especially in outlying hinterland and rural areas) are left to fend for themselves. Why have these MPs, especially incumbents seeking a renewal of their terms, if they don’t care about constituents?
People complain that service seems more focused on urban areas rather than on the rural and hinterland communities. The urban areas get far better representation from their geographic MPs than other communities. Most of the geographic MPs themselves tend to live in “town” and not surprisingly they don’t pay much heed to the rural or hinterland areas they are supposed to champion. They could care less what happens to rural folks. The geographic MPs tend to take care of their own (personal) interests in town rather than advocate for developing the far flung areas of the country. They ensure the areas where they live in town are “up to standard”. Their attitude is – “who cares about the villagers or hinterland dwellers as long as their personal life is good?”
In the hinterland, people are not very pleased with representation. Some areas get an “ok” kind of rating for service especially for government geographic MPs. In the hinterland, the MPs don’t ‘absolutely’ neglect their supporters or constituents as in the some rural areas where life seems to have frozen in time. Many rural areas on the Corentyne or Essequibo or West Demerara are absolutely abandoned without service. Life is not very satisfying in the hinterland regions but at least some attention (and welfare handouts, etc.) is paid to them unlike say in other parts of the country. In rural areas in Berbice, Essequibo, and even parts of Demerara, it is a completely different world – they have been almost completely abandoned. If one drives through some rural areas like on the Corentyne and Essequibo and even West Berbice, time forgot those places. One begins to question whether they are parts of Guyana; even the party they vote for ignored them. They are like wasteland. It is no wonder that Black Bush became the suicide capital of the world and another village in Berbice the garbage capital. Alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, and crime have overwhelmed them. There is hardly any real development or social programs to assist people with myriad of problems. Large rural areas are prone to flooding resulting in billions of dollars of losses to farmers and homeowners and they got/get no compensation. Cemeteries are like jungles untouched by civilization. And still hardly attention is paid to them. Who represents them in parliament? The geographic MPs are hardly found especially in rural areas. Why aren’t voters holding these MPs to account? Why are they still voting for these no shows? Why aren’t the voters moaning and groaning to their party leaders instead of complaining to me? They deserve the MPs they get for not holding them accountable. If some of these geographic MPs apply for a job, businesses won’t have a second look at them.
The parties should be careful who are chosen as speakers at campaign meetings; some of them repel voters. Parties could lose votes.
Voters say they are not pleased with all of the choices available to them as Presidential candidates and or as MPs on the lists. Many voters say they will cast ballots against a party or its main candidate rather than for a candidate or party. In recent polling, some three quarters of the voters say they are voting against a candidate or party rather than for the one to which they will cast ballot. For almost ninety percent of the voters, their decision has already been made. They are voting tribe or race even through they are not pleased with their party. Some are actually voting for (in support of) their party but the bulk of them are voting against the other side that they find repulsive.
The Presidential candidate and the lists are final. Party head of lists should think carefully who is promoted on stage and who is sent out on the campaigning as well as who will be plucked from lists as MPs. The leaders can do without some of them.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.