The much-awaited meeting between the two maximum leaders has come and gone, but nothing has qualitatively changed. The country is still unsure about the immediate future. The joint statement which followed the meeting was anything but joint—it was really two separate statements under one heading.
So, we are back to where we were a week ago, with one side insisting that the current government must close shop and the other side insisting on its right to remain in place. The solution to the impasse was first kicked to the Speaker of the House, who politely declined to reverse his ruling. It was then kicked to the courts, which by nature is not a place of haste. Now, the leaders have agreed to kick the matter to GECOM, which at the best of times is not a bipartisan institution.
The message is clear—neither side is giving an inch. Not a blade of grass. In the meantime, some Civil Society organizations and the new political party, ANUG, are calling for a National Government. Such an idea was not even low down on the agenda suggested by the president.
In an interview I did with Newsroom’s Neil Marks on December 31, I suggested that the best gift the two leaders could give Guyana is to agree to a National Government for the remainder of the current term. Not unexpectedly, that part of the interview was not carried by Newsroom—they didn’t see it as newsworthy. Who can blame them?
When it became clear that elections could not be held as scheduled in 1990 following the agreement between the major parties of the day that was brokered by President Jimmy Carter, the WPA suggested that a National Government be set up to govern the country until elections. The PPP promptly said no, and the PNC unexpectedly said yes. So, there was no National Government.
Again in 1997-98, in the wake of the Herdmanston Accord that reduced the PPP’s term by two years, the WPA floated the idea of a National Government to govern for those two years. Neither party agreed and the rest is history.
As an advocate of Power Sharing, I welcome a National Government any day. But I have concluded that we simply don’t have what it takes to make that leap. The culture of dominance grounded in one-party control is too entrenched in our collective political psyche. We accept the idea in principle and are willing to agree to the form, but never the essence.
The PPP and the PNC added CIVIC and REFORM respectively to their names, and convinced themselves that that was power sharing. The PNC, faced with the reality that it could not win on its own, even with a plurality of the votes, went a step further—it entered into partnerships with other parties. But although it won as a partnership, it sought to govern as PNC—a tactic that contributed greatly to the loss of government on December 21, 2018.
I am convinced that had the Coalition governed as a mini-National Government, it would have had much more to show in its short tenure, and it would have demonstrated to the country that partnership government is superior to one-party government. It would have brought more people to the side of a genuine National Government and in the process, put pressure on the PPP to accept the inevitable.
The question is why four generations of leaders have found it so difficult to move beyond the narrow confines of one-party governance. I think part of it has to do with the fact that that form of governance is all we know—socialization is a powerful phenomenon. I have found it amazing that some very intelligent people find it almost impossible to conceive of government outside of the government-opposition construct—it’s all they know. The other factor at play, I think, is political selfishness, both at the level of the individual and at the level of the party—in many respects the two are interconnected. For most of our politicians, politics are about personal gratification—material and otherwise. So, for many of them, power sharing in a National Government amounts to less cabinet and parliamentary seats to share to the party faithful and less perks and positions with which to entice loyalty.
To really and truly embrace the idea and practice of a National Government, we must have leaders whose commitment to country goes beyond flag, anthem and other related symbols. The leaders must care deeply about our ethnic divide—ethnicity must be seen as much more than votes and routes to power.
Commitment to a National government must be both philosophical and practical. Leaders must be practical about the limitations of an ethnically divided country, while simultaneously dream and imagine something superior to what is. Guyana is a work in progress as far as a joint Guyanese nationalism is concerned, but we must have leaders with the courage to lead the way and hold themselves up as examples of what that nationalism could be.
I think Mr. Granger lost a great opportunity to lead that charge. Not since the nationalist leadership of the 1950s has a leader had such an opportunity to make a difference in that regard. As president, I think he understood the task at hand and made some attempts to address the issue, but he was unable to move beyond forms of cohesion and embrace the essence of cohesion.
What a governor has in his or her hand is the power of government—how do you use that power to expand the scope for shared and joint governance? What economic, political and cultural policies were advanced to achieve this desired end? What are you prepared to give up in order include others?
Last week I tried to explain to the PNC faithful and to African Guyanese that Guyana does not belong to them alone. The mantra of “the bad PPP days” is not enough—it is a dangerous refrain. What about those mostly Indian Guyanese who support the PPP—aren’t they entitled to share in the governance of Guyana too? If all we want to do is keep out the PPP, doesn’t that amount to keeping out Indian Guyanese?
Let us think hard about that construct. If the Coalition alienates Indian Guyanese and simultaneously tries to keep the PPP out, what message are we sending to Indian Guyanese. As one of my young mentors would say in her Saturday column—Think on That.
I supported the idea of the Coalition because of its promise to broaden the scope for a more genuinely inclusive governance. I felt and still feel that that is our route to national jointness. I am disappointed at the Coalition, because I think it achieved the opposite—it has contracted the space for inclusive governance.
If the PNC and AFC Governmental leaders couldn’t co-exist with the PNC and WPA and AFC and Charrandass Persaud and Lincoln Lewis and Freddie Kissoon and David Hinds, then they have defeated their purpose for being, and in the process give credence to the PPP’s self-serving mantra that lack of trust prevents them from going into a national government with the PNC. In seeking a second term, the Coalition has to overcome that debilitation.
I end on a personal note. A young PNC leader took to social media last week to denounce me as a “mercenary with a pen.” He accused me of working for Glenn Lall, which when translated into Guyanese politics means that I am working for Indian Guyanese and the PPP. He sought to lynch me because the PPP quotes my writings. I pity the young man and I have refrained from responding to him. But he should know that there are some political people in our midst for whom material benefits in exchange for political advocacy is not an option, and as an aspiring politician, he would be better off following their example.
For what it’s worth, let me reveal this: since my column moved to the Kaieteur News ten months ago, I have not received a single cent from the publishers of that paper. Glenn Lall never offered to pay me and I never asked for payment.
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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