Feb 17, 2014 Letters
Everywhere politics is a battle for power. In advanced countries, the contest is mainly between differing ideologies, world-views and policy prescriptions.
Here in Guyana, for over 50 years, the fight has been trite and elementary, based on race. Manifestos, which never determine outcomes, are produced to camouflage the people. They are like lipstick on a pig. But everyone knows the beast we are dealing with.
And because it is so visceral, the fight never ends, as in some countries where there is a civilized pause in the fighting after elections. Here in Guyana, long after polling is over, the grossness and gamesmanship continue, the main motivation being political ascendancy rather than the national welfare.
So, instead of co-operation on national security or on the economy, the two major parties continue to criticize and blame each other for the crime wave, unending corrupt practices and the illegal trafficking of narcotics, among others.
The most outstanding example in our history of collaboration between Government and Opposition was the claim of Guyana’s territory (Ankoko) by Venezuela more than three decades ago. Other than that, there is damning evidence of the utter primitiveness of the race-bait politics being practiced in Guyana for over a half century by both the PPP and the PNC.
And strangely, this self-destructiveness is supported by the vast majority of the electorate who do not seem to appreciate that, whoever wins; it is in their own interest for collaboration to take place across party lines. So for donkey years, critical issues including crime, corruption and the illegal drug trade needing political cooperation remain unsolved.
So deep is the desire for tribal pre-eminence between the two parties, there is no demand for statesmanship by the electorate from the political leaders, no requirement for astute political management, and definitely no effort to solve crime and corruption thus leaving the nation without the social evolution that should have taken place over the last 50 years. Therefore, even when we tried to emerge from the tribal trap in 2011, we were derailed by the absence of statesman-like leadership and profound commitment to the development that comes from national cohesiveness. What we have is a minority regime that bullies the opposition, a minority regime that is inflexible, a minority regime that has refused to yield an inch, and does not have any respect for the majority opposition.
We will be observing with great interest what takes place in the upcoming local government elections across the country where three or more political parties will vie for seats on the councils. We are anxiously waiting to see whether any political refinement will surface to place the well-being of the people above personal and party triumph. Clearly, power sharing is the requirement here, but we believe that egos and power drunkenness will not make it happen. Will APNU and the PPP cabal transcend their problems with the AFC and successfully negotiate an arrangement in the best interest of the people?
Or better still, even though remote, the most exciting possibility of all: will the PPP and the PNC leave behind half a century of unrelenting political war and race-bait politics and establish peace even though temporarily in the interest of the people. That would be a watershed and it will show that the leaders would have led. Think of the message it would send to the people.
Think of its potential for reshaping the politics in Guyana. The major races could begin to see each party differently, creating the possibility, however small, for genuine multiracialism in both, a development that is long overdue but has evaded this great society and country.
The challenge here is to discard the racial attitudes of the past. The two main parties must seize the opportunity of cooperation and leave behind their antiquated mantra of “apan jhaat” politics. Notwithstanding the importance of their survival, both parties must allow the capacity for coalition into their DNA.
The leaders of both parties must exorcise their age-old animus against one another and swallow their present personal bitterness if their goal is to be elected and serve the people and avoid relegation to the “plantation.”
But not only must the politicians evolve. The people must themselves rise above narrow partisanship and demand enlightened political management and leadership from both parties.
They must see that future politics has arrived and exhort their leaders to rise to the challenge. One suspects, however, that so wide is the political divide between the PPP and the PNC, so entrenched the rivalry, that a majority of the membership of both parties cannot even begin to countenance collaboration between our two oldest mass political organizations.
It is most unfortunate because, after the fight for power during elections is over, collaboration between two major parties, as is now taking place in prosperous, stable Germany could be the answer for unleashing the potential for greatness in Guyana, a potential that has been tragically left languishing for half a century of Independence. Both the people and the politicians stand accused of self-inflicted stasis.
Thankfully, not all our people remain mired in the past. An independent, influential, non-aligned minority, comprised mostly of youths has emerged and is growing in numbers. It is one of the best developments since Guyana attain its Independence on May 26, 1966.
This constituency must keep the vigil. They are the evolutionary force in our society. They must keep the politics under scrutiny and severely chastise politicians and followers when they fall short. This group must make it clear that if the leaders of the two major parties cannot bring the racial situation to a satisfactory conclusion, none deserves the job of President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
For they have proven themselves to be products of the stale culture that has inflicted enormous failures on leadership and economic and financial hardships on the poor and the working class in the country. No leader has been able to weld our diverse country into a cohesive whole.
For all their achievements, we say with much respect that Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham have left the nation more divided than they found it. In 2011, the PNC brought forces together to form coalitions in opposition but is disastrous in holding the minority government accountable. The spotlight is now on Donald Ramotar and David Granger. Will statesmanship emerge in Guyana? If not, it is time for the masses to switch their support to the AFC.
Dr. Asquith Rose and Harish S. Singh
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