Sep 08, 2014 Letters
The imminent debate on the no-confidence motion against the government tabled in the Parliament by the Alliance for Change (AFC) has thrown Guyana into General Election mode. Barring any crossing of the floor from the Parliamentary Majority side, the no-confidence vote seems to be a foregone conclusion—the Executive Government, with a minority parliamentary support, would fall. This would necessitate new elections within the constitutionally mandated time-frame.
It is at this point that things cease to be straightforward. As is the case with every election since 1961, any number of directly and indirectly related issues comes to the fore. An established aspect of Guyanese political culture is the collective belief that elections would solve or provide the solutions to the country’s myriad problems. This is a belief that is generally shared by both the elites and the masses. Hence, the period in between elections is characterized by a stubborn refusal on both sides of the political aisle to engage issues of fundamental importance to the country’s well- being, such as the very rules, structures and institutions that are best suited to effectively manage the country’s political economy and societal (ethnic) problems.
The last three years have been no different. More than any other, the 2011election results gave the political leadership its widest scope and best opportunity to engage and find a political solution to these fundamental problems. Yet, to our eternal shame, neither side made even a minimum effort to seek, formally or informally, to actively address these historical burdens. In the end, what promised to be the most revolutionary period in our post-colonial political history, insofar as governance is concerned, has turned out to be, at best, our most unimaginative, and at worst, our most willfully self-destructive.
Those who are close to me know of my personal disenchantment with party politics since the aftermath of the 2011 elections. I observed from close-up the political narrowness of that phenomenon, which ultimately relies on the tactics and strategies of self/party-preservation and domination over the freedom of people, nation and country. And my participation in politics is motivated by the latter. So, from the sidelines, I have watched the architects of domination move through the land like vengeful marauders while the other side put its tail between its legs and whimpers politely and complains without conviction with the occasional snarl, but never a bite.
The 2011 battle cry of Justice for the Left-out in the form of equal room in the Government of National Unity was drowned in the tears of the women of Linden, Agricola and beyond. The hopeful chant of “No place for Donald” quickly became “The whole place for Donald.” And the suffering of the sufferers multiply by the day even as the country’s resources are barefacedly carved up by those who are driven by a cruel form of Manifest Destiny. The dream and promise of a democracy that equally empowers and protects the well-being and interests of all ethnic groups and social classes, which were excited by the campaign and results of the election, were quickly extinguished.
So is it any surprise that on the eve of a possible election, we are raising the issues of constitutional reform and power-sharing? Power Sharing, as a governance principle and practice aimed at addressing our ethnically fractured polity, was first raised in 1961 by Eusi Kwayana. Since then, we have had three opportunities to enshrine it in our constitution—the Independence Constitution, the 1980 Constitution and Constitutional Reform exercise of the 1990s. We ignored it on all three occasions.
For any plural society to function effectively, it has to have rules of governance that speak to and facilitate that plurality. In the absence of that, political and ultimately economic and socio-cultural dysfunction characterize the prevailing order. And the longer that dysfunction is allowed to exist the more it becomes the norm, even in the face of its obvious havoc. Guyana is, perhaps, the world’s worst example of this phenomenon. From 1957 to the present—57 long and wasted years— we have shuttled between constitutional dictatorship and unconstitutional dictatorship, with each iteration outdoing the previous one by astronomical proportions. The doom varies but it grows. And it’s now an adult dinosaur with a deadly reach.
So here we are in 2014. There is talk of constitutional reform—again. There is talk of National Front and Government of National Unity—again. There is talk about presidential candidates—again. There is talk about who will regain or retain their parliamentary majority—again. There is talk about the racial vote—again. There is talk about the flawed voters list—again. There is talk about who will win and lose—as always.But there is no real talk about how we can collectively free Guyana from the shackles of its colonial legacy of ethnic and social insecurity, competition and hegemony. There is no talk about where will we be the morning after the election. Perhaps there is no thought about these things.
We are gearing up for another fight. Elections are necessary. We fought and sacrificed for that sacred right. But something tells me that this one, which we are prematurely courting, will at best take us back to the 2011 result and at worst reward the marauders with the constitutional instrument that they have stolen since 2011. My own view is that another way, a just way, a sensible way is possible.
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