I endorse the position advocated by Mr. Freddie Kissoon (column KN Jun 12) that the country needs a constitutional system that prevents the control of power in the hand of an ethnic constituency through the instrumentality of its political party. I disagree with Kissoon that Hoyte was the most multi-racial of the leaders.
Hoyte only embraced Indians during his last few years (leaving out the rigging of elections and the lack of Indian presence in his Ministries from 1968 thru 1989) because of pressure from the international community and local Indian businessmen who made rapprochement with Indians a condition for their financial bailout of his government.
When Hoyte lost the elections of 1997 and 2001, he resorted to militant tribalistic instincts leading to serious violent attacks against Indians. That is not the hallmark of a multi-racial leader. But he should be given credit for ending the ban on foods necessary for the Indian diet and religious practices and for taking measures to allow a free and fair election in direct opposition to his party colleagues.
On ethnic dominance, the society has been this way since its inception when it was established by the Europeans. The modern day system (allowing for ethnic dominance) was put in place by Burnham with the expectation that his PNC would remain in power forever (through rigged elections) and as such govern on behalf of its ethnic group.
It backfired in 1992 when international pressure forced the PNC to hold free and fair elections causing it to lose control over office and the dominance of its ethnic supporters. Since then, the PNC has been trying to regain control of office but not advocating for a changed constitution that would balance power between and among the diverse ethnic groups.
The PNC is seeking to replace the PPP which will not change the power equation among or between the ethnic groups. The Indians, like the Africans and other ethnic groups, want security.
As Kissoon pointed out insecurity, fear and pessimism – all attributed to PNC’s dominance — drove Indians solidly behind the PPP until last November when many defected to the AFC because they felt the PPP betrayed them by not providing them a fair share of the resources. Many Africans defected to the AFC in 2006 because they were displeased with the leadership of the PNC at that time. The Africans returned home when the leadership changed under APNU.
So the population has remained divided as it was during the 1950s – they think and vote ethnicity.
The two parties (make that all three now) use ethnicity for their political advantage. The AFC made a racial breakthrough because of its ethnic orientation in 2006 (African party) and in 2011 (Indian party). If its ethnic orientation of 2011 changes in 2016, Indians may also return home just as the Africans abandoned the AFC when its ethnic orientation went through a change.
The population is held in racial bondage and electoral prison and we need to break away from such a system. But no one has been successful in his efforts to win over cross racial appeal and free up the racial politics. Even the great Cheddi Jagan failed in 1992 to win over Africans.
The electoral system makes it difficult for people to take major risks in how they vote. Indians fear splitting their vote, worried about the return of the PNC. The specter of what the PNC did to Indians during the 28 years of dictatorship make them unwilling to take that risk. And the Africans keep hoping that Indians would split their vote allowing the PNC to slip in quietly; it almost succeeded last November. So the nation is at a racial stand off between the two major races.
What the country needs is a political (electoral) system (a la Fiji, for example, or Belgium, or the Scandinavian countries or Holland, Switzerland, etc.) that allows for intra-ethnic competition so that voters are not confined to one ethnic party but several parties to represent the interests of each ethnic group.
In European countries, several parties represent their ethnic groups. Under such a system in Guyana, no party can afford to ignore its constituents as currently happens. The government formation also needs to be changed perhaps allowing for the government to be chosen by the parliament (majority support) and not on winning a plurality of votes (as under the current Burnham PNC model).
Such a system will force parties to form election alliances and move the nation away from governance by one party through ethnicity.
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