Democracy is not just the right to vote every five years as the uninformed believes. The fact is, once the election is over the elected official mutates into a dictator who believes that he/she has the authority of the people to do whatever they want. The irony here is that so many of us like to quote Lord Acton who rightly stated, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We accept that adage as an excerpt from the scriptures but only as something theoretical, as words, words, words, and not as something about which we should do something.
Apart from hiring an assassin to remove the dictators among us, we the people have almost no option to defang the venom of the dictator. We could, however, agitate to have referenda (referendums) be included and entrenched in our constitution; so that the elected official (dictator), must not be able to make arbitrary decisions just because he is like Bruce Almighty who could sing, “I’ve got the power.”
That way, not because you are Prime Minister, you could dismantle the train lines; that to embark on such a madman decision you must take the question to we the people and see if we are in favour of such a hair-brained move; that you could not shut down the sugar industry because the opposition base emanates from it and you could do anything because you are a dictator; that you could not shutdown the country’s refinery which was the basis of a country’s wealth and thus a peoples’ bread and butter just because you are the PM who wished to protect one’s friend with whom you played footsie; that you could not impose a tax that affected one and all before citizens had a say in the matter.
Simply put, after the general elections, the elected must know that their hands are tied by the referendum handcuff. Even a lawless dictator like Maduro has sought permission from his “lawless” supporters to invade Guyana via a referendum. Outside this concocted, and fake referendum, Australia which belongs to our geopolitical family, is a country that believes in the principle of the referendum and from one referendum in 1906 it has evolved to 45 in 2023 thus far truncating whatever tendency to dictatorships there might be in the minds of lawless politicians.
We are – not a banana republic – but a fig skin republic and more than Australia, we need to include the referendum in our constitution, just to prevent power hungry politicians from seeing themselves as above the law and their citizens as their slaves. In our next election, we the people should insist that a party’s manifesto is only relevant if it includes referenda as something mandatory in our constitution as democracy is a bad joke without it.
L. Siddhartha Orie