In normal circumstances, after elections, the losing side would naturally feel aggrieved but eventually resign itself to the outcome, engage as the opposition to try to keep the ruling regime in check for the good of the country, and start planning for the next ballot. But in Guyana, voting is colored by the fact that it follows a distinctly racial pattern.
The passing of President Burnham saw the rise of Desmond Hoyte, a more moderate version of his predecessor; but divisions in Guyana continued to fester and the modus operandi of elections remained unchanged. Eventually, with significant changes in the world order, international pressure induced Hoyte, in 1992, to agree to elections monitored by international observers, spearheaded by the Carter Center. Eventually, Jagan and the PPP/C, after nearly three decades in the opposition, regained power.
The present government came to power in 2015 after a bitter campaign involving widespread claims of corruption against the PPP/C administration, which had held on to power since 1992. Throughout their twenty-three years at the helm, the PPP/C, despite concerted efforts to govern with inclusiveness for all, was rarely successful at shaking off accusations of bias against the Afro-Guyanese population.
The PPP/C’s easing of media restrictions, a hallmark of the Hoyte era gave the press the freedom that had been denied them for decades. Ironically, this new-found freedom emboldened certain sections of the media sympathetic to the opposition to play a decisive role in diminishing perceptions of inclusiveness
After Jagan passed away, in 1997, things did not get better for his successors, Janet Jagan (his widow), Bharat Jagdeo, and Donald Ramotar. Accusations of corruption spread like wildfire, aided and abetted by a convenient, new-found outlet – social media. And when the election results of 2015 were announced, the PPP supporters cried foul, and have been so crying ever since. Now there is the perception and accusation that the present regime, led by David Granger, President, will not want to lose power.
The status quo is likely to continue ad infinitum; cycle after election cycle unless something is done to eradicate the scourge of divisions. The idea of a national unity government has been bandied around for years but seems unable to gain any traction, mainly because of what President Carter referred to as a ‘winner-takes-all’ approach by whichever party is at the helm. Dr. Jagan’s attempts to get Burnham to join in a coalition had fallen on deaf ears, and the country, instead of being unified, remained splintered for decades. Many lives have been lost over the years, with little or no accountability because of absolute control of the press and meddling with the security forces and the judiciary by the powers that be.
There are those who posit that a national unity party would translate to a one-party state, a term that would normally sound like a police state, with most basic human rights stripped by an authoritarian government. That really does not have to be the case with a properly crafted national unity government in Guyana.
A basic prerequisite would involve sincere patriotism – love of country as opposed to party allegiance – and abandonment of the winner-takes-all mentality; and the two major parties can coalesce with a power-sharing arrangement, something that was suggested (by the losers) after the 1992 elections but, sadly, failed to gain traction. (It would, anyway, have been unreasonable to expect the party that had been sidelined for twenty-eight years, amid claims of rigged elections, to suddenly yield to power-sharing). To avoid abuse, the power sharing arrangement should come under the oversight of a committee of seasoned intellectuals, including highly respected ex-politicians, judges, and clergy involving the major religions of the country.
The benefits of a national unity government can be legion. A bipartisan approach can lead to a drastic improvement of the crime situation, including the scourge of break-in robberies that for too long has been plaguing business owners and posing a disincentive for the many overseas-based Guyanese intent on re-migrating. And, importantly, a surge in the economy is to be expected, with entrepreneurship, both by locals and re-migrants, and consequent job creation, likely to ensue.
It seems clear that for too long, the Guyanese people have been victimized by a brand of politics that spells division as opposed to unity. It’s about time that politicians from both sides of the aisle start de-prioritizing party loyalty in favor of working for the good of the people. Enough of the seemingly ad-infinitum bickering and mud-slinging! The Guyanese people deserve nothing less, and would surely welcome the opportunity to rise from the clutches of division bequeathed us by our former rulers. Let’s make national unity our goal and pursue it relentlessly for the good of all Guyanese.
Aug 19, 2017The National Sports Commission annual swimming programme concluded yesterday at the National Aquatic Centre, Lilliendaal. The programme which lasted for six weeks was attended by 152 males and 164...
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