How much things have changed in three and a half years! It seems as if it were just yesterday that the coalition was catapulted into power by a slight victory over the seemingly invincible PPP. It was a slight victory of less than five thousand votes, but its historical significance made it seem like a landslide.
Finally, the PPP had been fairly beaten at an election. They had already lost the majority four years before, but now the all-powerful presidency was wrested from them by a coalition of parties at the top and an ethnic rainbow coalition at the bottom. It was a sweet victory, especially for those in the society who dreamed of a Guyana in which one-party paramountcy was not the rule and in which multi-ethnicity trumps ethnic domination.
For many of us, then, the coming to power of APNU+AFC was more than electoralism, more than the naked assumption of power—it was a triumph of the best of our instincts over the worst in us. I can still remember the emotions in the faces of the coalition supporters as they took to the open space to proclaim their overcoming. I knew then what “August Morning” of 1838 looked like.
The previous PNC government had so compromised our independence promise that even their own supporters did not grieve when they were booted out in 1992. But in a cruel turn of history, the succeeding PPP regime replaced PNC’s authoritarianism with a morbid and rabid ethno-political domination that still makes the blood run cold, to paraphrase Brother Bob Marley in his immortal “Slave Driver.”
But in a matter of months it was becoming clear that the beneficiaries of this heroic act on the part of the masses were bent on squandering the collective overcoming. It was becoming clear that the exercise of power mattered more than the management of the collective political gains. It was becoming clear that the people’s interests and emotions and expectations were peripheral to government action. It was becoming clear that the convergence of party paramountcy and personal power had returned to the halls of government.
Soon, electoral promises were evaporating as the manifesto was ignored. The partnership–the backbone of the coalition– was put to sleep like an errant child. The senior partner returned to its former self, less crudely, but crude nevertheless. One junior partner, drunken by the unexpected power, turned its back on its supporters and turned a blind eye to its own victimhood. A less junior partner, in the name of “not rocking the boat,” chose silence over principle and by the time it was ready to speak, it was muzzled by the logic of its initial silence.
Invariably, the actions followed. Government was rich enough to pay the big ones big salary increases but too poor to pay God’s children a living wage. Vendors were “pushed out in the rain,” to quote calypsonian Chalkdust. Columnists were expelled for speaking truth to power. Teachers were roughed up and forced to surrender.
The PPP’s transgressions were forgotten. Campaigning for party posts was preferred to campaigning for constitutional reform. Black People were put down on their sacred day. Sugar workers’ humanity mattered little in the push to right size. Intra-coalition consultation was banished. And the only game in town was the Cabinet “with no drawers” to quote from calypsonian Trinidad Rio.
Someone somewhere came up with the bright idea that the best way to strengthen the coalition was to let the partners fight one another at the Local Government Elections. And so, “on your mark, get set, go,” and off they went. The PNC commandeered the APNU brand and pressed forward. The AFC asked to be part of the team and when that was rejected, it said it was glad to go solo. The WPA, as is its norm, chose silence.
Meanwhile, the PPP planned and plotted and waited. Say what they like about Jagan’s children, but they are superior tacticians to their adversaries. They found enough Black candidates to window-dress in Black communities, as they mobilized their hardcore supporters. They framed the LGE as a mini-general election and got their competitors to fall in line.
Jagdeo can’t run as president again, but he runs the PPP with “attitude.” They watch GECOM with an eagle eye and placed it on the front burner of the news cycle. They baited the PNC to be PNC and not Coalition, even as they targeted the AFC in the Indian Guyanese communities.
And it revealed itself on Monday. The turnout was predictably low—it’s a LGE. But the PPP was able to get more of its people to the polls, while the Coalition supporters refused to turn out. And that is what accounted for the PPP’s better performance. If you get more of your people to show up, you end up winning more at-large seats. That’s how the PPP could lose in Buxton, but win Foulis-Buxton, or it could pick up additional seats in Georgetown.
The message is simple. African Guyanese rebuked the PNC by staying home. You govern for all of Guyana, but your policy choices and your political moves must not punish your supporters. Yet that is what the PNC-led coalition did these past three and a half years. They harassed Black people. They ignored Black people. They talked down to Black People. They took Black People for granted. It’s a case whereby they “eyes pass” Black People, and on Monday those people got a chance to tell them so to their face.
And Indian Guyanese “dissed” the AFC. That party can talk about 10.8% for all it wants, but the real story is its devastation by Indian Guyanese, whose vote got it into government. The Indian Guyanese leadership of the AFC abandoned their supporters the day they became ministers. And on Monday they paid the price while the PPP reaped the rewards.
So pumped up is the PPP, that it dares to file a vote of no confidence in the government. As the young people would say. “Wow Wow, the table turn now.” No doubt, sensing that it got them in a corner, the PPP now moves to turn the screw.
You know the Coalition is in trouble when it takes David Hinds’ advice. As readers know, I have been relentless in advocating that governance must not be confined to Cabinet; that the parties of the coalition must meet outside of cabinet to chart the political and policy direction.
Well the PNC and AFC met after the defeat on Monday and the filing of the PPP’s no-confidence motion—three and a half years late. But let’s hope it’s not too late. And it was good to see the” prodigal son,” Carl Greenidge was part of the PNC delegation—three and a half years late. But let’s hope his presence is for real.
I take no joy in writing this column, but the truth must be told. Some of us saw this coming and sought to warn the leaders both publicly and privately, but they acted “like stick bruck a dey hase.” The bottom line is this—the government understands power, but lacks political understanding. Power without intelligent politics leads to Monday’s outcome. And now they must wonder if one of their MP’s will be tempted by the PPP’s millions and jump ship. How things have changed in three and a half years!
More of Dr. Hinds ‘writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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