The greatest fear this nation has about its future is the almost complete shutting out of reality by its rulers who are completely enmeshed in the old culture of their party, an organization born more than sixty years ago. Try as hard as he wanted to, then President Forbes Burnham knew that he could not have taken Guyana into a settled future if he didn’t settle with his political opponent – the PPP.
The PPP was a strong, well-oiled machinery that could not be defeated both militarily and politically. Even after the death of Walter Rodney, Burnham had to contend with a relentless PPP. At the end of 1984, Mr. Burnham decided to succumb to fate. He shaped a covenant with the PPP that had at its centre-piece… power-sharing.
When Desmond Hoyte succeeded Mr. Burnham, he conceded to the relentlessness of the Guyana reality. He could not have continued on a path of authoritarian power. Mr. Hoyte knew that even if he didn’t want to conciliate with the PPP, he had to do so with the Guyanese population. The most graphic example of Hoyte’s acceptance of the Guyana reality in the late eighties was his permit for the birth of a newspaper owned by people that he, Hoyte, knew were not supporters of his Government.
Both Burnham and Hoyte accepted that under their rule Guyana was changing and they had to change with it. In the case of President Janet Jagan, though, facing a different situation, she too acknowledged that time was not on her side and that she had to either obliterate the opposition or offer compromises. In the end, facing inexorable pressure from an angry PNC opposition that was undermining her health, she resigned.
The tragedy that will befall the Ramotar administration is that he and the PPP refuse to see that they are facing identical situations that confronted Presidents Burnham, Hoyte and Mrs. Jagan. The country under Mr. Ramotar has changed since the PPP won the plurality of votes at the last general elections.
There are two well grounded opposition parties – the Indian vote is no longer guaranteed, and Linden has taught the country the lesson that oppression cannot last forever. They are bound to be unpleasant consequences from nasty policies, no matter how long they take to germinate.
Perhaps the most frightening thing about the new PPP Government is its complete refusal to concede any small territory to a changing Guyana. Even the most infinitesimal decimals are jealously guarded. There are no small parts and big pieces. For the post-2011 Government, everything big and small must be possessed. It begs the question how long will the anachronism of jaded, faded power last.
With each passing day, there is the collapse of the small things into the big things. It made no sense in the new configuration to request the Government of Italy to cancel the honorary consulate of attorney Nigel Hughes.
It happened because he is an opposition figure, and that is a problem for the PPP. Why contact the workplace of Dr. David Hinds and scandalize his name? How stupid! It made no sense to go breaking up the tents of a group of mostly women on a nightly vigil outside Parliament on High Street. These women are not affiliated to any political party
Against this background, one has to anticipate the stubborn rejection of motions, notices and Bills of APNU and the AFC in an opposition-controlled Parliament. But where will this leave such an opposition? At some point, the parliamentary opposition will have to take a hard look at its balance sheet. If we reach two years of opposition activism in Parliament and the ruling party does not concede territory then in a changing Guyana, there may be too many cul-de-sacs for the opposition to accept and tolerate
What is the way out? President Ramotar has to learn the lessons that three past Presidents had to live with.
It was Henry Kissinger, in an international context during the Vietnam War who remarked; “Power has never been so great yet never so useless”.
Mr. Ramotar acquired a vast power machine constitutionally engineered by a president who died since 1985. This power is extensive and coterminous with society. But Ramotar is facing the dilemma of Henry Kissinger
Mr. Ramotar is facing two pathways. The Kafkaesque garden where dark forces trample on a hapless land and angst replaces optimism. Or the entry into a modern world where reality teaches that old habits, old eras are long gone and Guyana has changed from the time when PNC and PPP fought each other.
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About 25 years ago, I asked former prominent Permanent Secretary, historian and UG lecturer, Pat Dyal, if he could offer... more
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