This article was previously published a few years ago in response to the contention that Guyana was a failed state. It is repeated now that this absurdity is being repeated again. The column has been revised in small measure to take account of the changed security situation from the time it was first published.
Poor governance, yes! A failed state, No!
Guyana may have its fair share of bad governance, we may have our security problems but the basic institutions and systems of governance remain intact and therefore Guyana is a far distance away from becoming a failed state.
Poor governance cannot render Guyana into a failed state for if that were so then Guyana would have been a failed state a long time ago having endured an extended run of backward and undemocratic rule since independence right through until 1992.
What is at stake in Guyana is whether those who are bent on destabilizing the State will succeed and bring us to the brink of implosion.
The greatest threat to Guyana comes from those who are unwilling to accept the will of the people, and are prepared to use violence to create instability and to undermine the government.
A failed state is one in which the functions that one associates with Governments and the State have disintegrated under internal conditions of strife and violence leading either to a total collapse of systems of governance and or their replacement by parallel systems of rule.
In failed states there is a total collapse of law and order. Government has collapsed and the State withers away or loses all control.
While Guyana is characterized by a security challenges and serious charges of torture during interrogations, the threat to law and order is mainly external to the coercive institutions of the State.
The same allegations about use of torture that have been made against the security services have been made against the United States administration in relation to the treatment of Al Qaeda suspects.
Despite the security threats in Guyana and the most recent destruction of the Ministry of Health, the State is not crippled. By and large, law and order remains intact in Guyana.
The arms of the state are functioning and capable of exercising control; the judiciary still functions, government services are still existent, Parliament is intact, there is a vibrant media and Guyana still conducts its external relations through the formal channels. Where then is the failed state?
In fact, while there are problems with crime, I would concede that under the new Commissioner there has been an improvement in the level of law enforcement in the country.
And as I mentioned yesterday, the police must be credited with an improvement in the solving of some of the serious crimes in the country.
In a macro sense, the security situation in Guyana is no worse than in Trinidad and Jamaica where gun-related violence and kidnappings have become rampant. Yet these two countries have not been deemed to be failed states.
In Guyana, however, we are good at creating labels that have no basis in fact but if repeated often enough, acquires popular appeal. There is no such thing, for example as an elected dictatorship. That is an oxymoron.
Thus, even though we keep hearing about the imminent collapse of Guyana and how we are about to go over the precipice, none of that, however, is going to happen. Guyana is not going to collapse.
There is going to be continued competition for state power in Guyana but all these contestants are, I am sure, aware that they will lose out if the institutions of the state: education, security, the judiciary, the private sector etc collapses and Guyana joins the ranks of countries such as Somalia, Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo which today can properly be considered as failed states.
The parties will compete fiercely for political power but they will never allow this competition to reduce Guyana to an ungovernable territory. Indians and Africans will defend their respective and perceived interests but they will never allow Guyana to disintegrate.
Guyana has a functioning parliament, elected through free and fair elections. That institution represents the will of the Guyanese people because it is an elected assembly.
The calls for parliament to be boycotted now have no basis because there is no question as to its legality and composition.
When the PNCR boycotted the parliament after the 1997 elections, it did so since at the time it did not recognize the Janet Jagan government.
There is no question now that the opposition in Guyana recognizes that there is in Guyana an elected government and a lawful parliament. This is why they are there.
The institutions of Guyana have endured Cold War machinations of the sixties, misrule in the seventies and eighties. It is therefore hardly likely that a small group of criminals can lay siege to the state of Guyana and reduce us to an amorphous condition where warlords, black marketing racketeering and gangsterism become the preferred ways of doing things in Guyana.
In a failed state there is no formal economy. This cannot be said to be true in Guyana because not only do we still have an economy in which the private sector is identifiable and influential, there is also established private sector bodies and formal rules concerning trade. Guyana is also not about to have an economic collapse.
Guyana will empty before that happens, and even the man who says he is not going anywhere will make his exit from these shores.
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