One can discern three distinct political models in the run up to the next General Elections. First, a coalition of some of the opposition parties under the banner of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).
Second, some political parties running separately and independently with the expectation of holding a decisive balance should there be a tie or slim margin of victory of parliamentary seats.
Third, “winner takes all” in the sense of either the incumbent political party or a coalition of the Opposition parties winning sufficient parliamentary seats to enable the formation of a government.
None of these three models provides for the formation of a government of national unity which encompasses all the political parties which have gained parliamentary seats.
In a country which is hemorrhaging from violent crime, racial tensions, class conflicts, high levels of unemployment, poverty, and marginal to negative economic growth, only a government of national unity with a genuine and sincere commitment to balanced socio-economic development can, over a period of time, bring the country back to conditions of peace, prosperity, and social harmony.
For nearly six decades since the suspension of the country’s constitution and through the colonialist policy of divide and rule , and the split in the People’s Political Party (PPP), the country has been marking time. The progressive socio-economic goals then envisaged through political unity of the people were shattered, only to be revived for a short time in the 1970s by the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) which, through its popularity and programmes of national unity and development, threatened the political foundations of both the PPP and the People’s National Congress (PNC).
The political divide in the country which today drives the nation’s socio-economic outcomes remains sharp, hardened, and inflexible. In a recent interview by the media correspondent, Ms. Bibi Persaud, the PNC presidential candidate and leader of the APNU, Mr. David Granger, was impressive but uncompromising and naïve in two responses.
First, that he would be willing to exclude the Alliance For Change (AFC) from the APNU coalition if the party (the AFC) was a hindrance; and secondly, that he expects the APNU to defeat the PPP at the next general elections because of the former’s socio-economic policies and programmes for development of the country.
The naivety of the latter response was the failure of Mr. Granger to recognize that in the final analysis when it comes to political elections in Guyana “apaan jaat” (race for race) always prevails ever since the concept was first preached by the PPP to its supporters.
Today, the global geo-political milieu in which Guyana operates is much different to what it was even a decade ago, much less six decades. The real-politik of this scenery therefore calls for a break from the entrenched past of the Jagan and Burhnam eras, while recognizing the outstanding contributions which both political leaders have made to the development of the country.
The future of Guyana’s socio-economic development lies critically and primarily in the hands of the young politicians of today: the Robert Persauds; the Raphael Trotmans; and the Aubrey Nortons, not to mention the budding ones in primary, secondary, and tertiary schools.
It is therefore incumbent on the older and more experienced politicians from across the political spectrum to groom these young politicians in building a civil, prosperous, harmonious nation, living peacefully and happily together.
A publication (in French), “What is a Race”, published by UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) five decades ago, pointed out that there is no pure race, even though some demagogues in various parts of the world have preached racial purity and superiority or ethic cleansing. The racial mosaic of Guyana can best be pictured with black berries (jamoon); the white inside of the soursop; the yellow skin of the banana; and the smoothie “dougla” blend of these fruits, all combined in the form of the five-finger or carambola. This is the society in which we live!
Paradoxically, loving one another yet sometimes getting at each other’s throat.
What therefore is the way forward for the country? First, the appointment of a Government of national unity comprised of representatives of the political parties which have won parliamentary seats.
This model should be in existence for ten years (two electoral periods) with the unanimous and binding commitment by all the political parties concerned to operate the system at least for the first five years.
This period would give the political parties a “cooling off” time to heal the political rift, promote social (race and class) harmony and economic growth and development, and groom the young politicians in working together in the interests of the nation as a whole.
Second, in view of the limited time now available before the announced election date of November 28, 2011, consideration should be given to the postponement of the general elections for about six months until a unanimous agreement for a Government of National Unity is worked out.
Third, a Team of CARICOM Ministers chaired by the Hon. Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and appointed by the CARICOM Heads of Government (HOG), should be established to work out the mechanics for the establishment of a Government of National Unity.
Other members of the proposed Team should include the Hon. P.J. Patterson (Jamaica); Dr. the Hon. Errol Cort (Antigua and Barbuda); Dr. the Hon. Kenny Anthony (St. Lucia); and Sir James Mitchell (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
Once agreement has been reached among the Guyanese political parties, the Team will monitor the implementation of the accord and submit regular reports to the CARICOM HOG.
Fourth, a Group of Experts chaired jointly by Prof. Compton Bourne and Prof. Clive Thomas and drawn from the Caribbean and its diaspora should be appointed to update the Ken King’s Long-term Strategic Development Plan; the Poverty Reduction Strategic Paper (PRSP); the medium term development strategy papers for the Education; Health; and Housing sectors; and to assist the Government in the preparation of its annual budget and Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
Various sector groups, e.g., agriculture; infrastructure; energy; mining, and the environment, would be appointed by the Chairpersons in consultation with the Government.
Which ever political party should eventually win the majority of parliamentary seats, be it the PPP or the APNU, both leaders, Mr. Don Ramotar and Mr. Dave Granger respectively, have the integrity, capabilities, and intestinal and testicular fortitude to change the path of Guyanese political history and propel the country toward sustainable peace, prosperity, and equitable growth and distribution of income.
Otherwise, one can only caution: Beware the Ides of March; and the Arab Spring; the British, European, and Israeli Summer; and the American Autumn, and heed the words of the French West Indian Human Rights activist and President of the Guadeloupe Regional Council, Victorin Lurel: “I hear a land that is crying, a land that is ablaze and bloody”. (Feb. 2009).
It is safer to pause at the edge of the hill than to step forward in haste into the abyss. Wither Guyana?
A. Donald Augustin
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