Jagdeo’s volte face: The reasons
Seven weeks before his use of the 1980 Constitution comes to an end, Bharrat Jagdeo most likely faced an ignominious defeat on a policy that was pregnant with possibilities of instabilities and disaster. I chose my words carefully here. I didn’t say retraction of a policy but defeat because it was a defeat on the suspension of Channel 6 given the hard-line politician that Mr. Jagdeo is.
First, the President’s explanation. He concluded that he didn’t want the opposition to use the temporary license revocation as an excuse for their electoral defeat. Also he didn’t want to give them a motive to create violence. The permission for the Channel to resume broadcasting came one week after Mr. Jagdeo’s edict.
It is hard to conceive that just within a week Mr. Jagdeo could catch himself and analytically reflect on the implications of the four month ban. One cannot be that foolish to think Mr. Jagdeo suddenly realized that he made a mistake.
The President has exercised power for twelve years and has never showed inclinations of compromise and concession. And if he did, it surely didn’t come one week later. My assessment of Mr. Jagdeo is that his politics has always been frameworked in zero sum modes. There have to be other explanations than the one that Mr. Jagdeo offered.
Mr. Jagdeo miscalculated. He thought that the perception would be that Sharma is unstable and controversial and the society would have focused on the man himself. The opposition took Sharma out of the equation and conceived of the ban as a process that involved electoral skullduggery.
Having interpreted the ban as election tampering, the opposition saw the game in a zero-sum way, an understanding of politics that Mr. Jagdeo himself is accustomed to. It was either the station is back on so we can campaign or we boycott the election. The AFC may not have come on the boycott bandwagon but once APNU did so, the AFC would have been in plenty of trouble because had it gone into the election and lost, giving the PPP credibility, it would have been impossible for the AFC to have stayed alive.
If there is a boycott and the result is one-party parliament, the possibilities then become frightening. Surely, Mr. Jagdeo is not that myopic to believe that a large force like the PNC would just wait until there is another election in 2016. The PNC and its constituencies would be forced into no-nonsense extra-parliamentary activities. That could mean anything. That could only spell disaster for the one-party rule of the PPP and Guyana as a whole.
The rising sentiment of a boycott scared Mr. Jagdeo and he was not prepared to play that gambit. The stakes were too high. What about opposition anger that may generate widespread pre-election turmoil? Mr. Jagdeo wasn’t taking any chances.
Secondly, Mr. Jagdeo has virtually cemented autocratic hegemony in his reign with enduring moments of fascism and has done that successfully with hindrance from civil society.
Civil society has never recaptured its pre-Burnham magic and has shown no interest in an attempt at such during the twelve years of Mr. Jagdeo. Stories about election rigging do not go down well in a country named Guyana. That country does not want to hear about election rigging but this is how the opposition interpreted the ban on the Channel.
As the days wore on, crystallization began to occur. Groups within civil society were making their feelings known. Then a 19-year-old ghost that was inactive since 1992 got up and began to walk.
The Catholic Church went totally and absolutely silent since the PPP came to power. But the church now spoke through its newspaper, the Catholic Standard. It made some caustic observations about the station’s suspension. Things in civil society in 2011 near to an election were taking shape. Mr. Jagdeo was not stupid. In fact he was very sensible to know his punishment of Channel 6 was seen by Guyanese as a vindictive act against the parties contesting the 2011 election and that “Mitta” Sharma was not even a footnote. The battle was for free and fair election. Fear was running through Mr. Jagdeo
Finally, it was only a question of time, when the ABC embassies would have voiced an opinion and that pronouncement would have accepted that the Channel’s suspension was connected to the elections which put the opposition at a monumental disadvantage.
Mr. Jagdeo lost the battle and the war. It is a fitting finale to a president that threw away a chance to have a fantastic legacy.