Let me start today’s column with a plain and unambiguous statement. I support free and fair elections. I am constantly reminded that back in the day, I was part of a brigade that laid down our lives for free and fair elections. And may I remind the younger ones especially, that the offending government of that time looked like me. So, I want nobody to question my commitment to democratic elections and a democratic Guyana.
But I have been around long enough to know, to learn the hard way that democracy in a place like Guyana is not always democratic. So, my critique today is not a dismissal of free and fair elections. Rather it is a critique of an aspect of our political culture that uses the cry for free and fair elections to either settle political scores or to satisfy ourselves that we are democrats.
Every country has its moments of crisis. Guyana has known its fair share. It has to be that way. The manner in which our country was cobbled together means that unless special care is taken to address the inevitable outcomes of that process, we are doomed to lurch from crisis to crisis. From 1953 when the British sent gunboats to turn back the outcome of the election of that year to the current scenario, democracy has been what the myriad political forces have deemed it to be.
Unfortunately, we live in a country that has ignored the lessons of its history, including recent history. Perhaps that is our lot, because if we dare face our history, we will have to admit our collective failures and the fallacies we have adopted to mask those failures.
Some Guyanese want to be like the rest of the world, but we fail to recognize the many ways in which we depart from the norms that govern most of the rest of the world. So, as I opined in a previous column, we tie ourselves in knots from which we cannot be untangled. In the end, Guyana becomes a space of a particular kind of logic that is steeped in mystery and mystique.
One just has to listen to the chorus about democracy and democratic norms that has filled the air, the airwaves and the public media these past three weeks, to realise how historical and non-contextual a country we are. One must ask—where have these people been? Which country are they talking and writing and mourning about? What democracy are they talking about, may I ask?
One hears of free and fair elections with such frequency, such authority and self-righteousness that it all begins to sound like a thing without meaning. Or is it that we have become a country without meaning?
I mean no disrespect for those who have exercised their right to question the fairness of the count of the votes from Region Four. There have always been questions about every election in Guyana—every single one of them from 1953. My God, why are we acting as if our questions and charges of electoral fraud are new?
Did the PPP not question the fairness of the elections before a single ballot was cast? Did the PPP not question the fairness of the 2011 and 2015 elections? Did they not charge the “White People” with helping the Coalition to win in 2015? Did the PNC not question the fairness of every election from 1992 to 2006? And did we not all question the “crooked elections” from 1968 to 1992? Did the PNC not charge Carter and the “White People” with putting the PPP in power in 1992? And did the PPP not charge one set of ideological “White People” with putting the PNC in power in 1964?
Have we not learned anything from that scenario? Are we really capable of learning anything from our own history? Again, I don’t mean to disrespect the voices which are shouting for free and fair and democratic elections, because I respect most if not all of those persons. But I have to ask—what do you want from Guyana. Do you want blood from stone?
I don’t want to dismiss these Guyanese, because they mean well. But I cannot join their bandwagon. It leads to nowhere—absolutely nowhere. Well, not really. It leads to the coronation of a one-party government of one side—one race—just as it did in 1992 and to some extent in 2015.
Yes, nobody cares where their free and fair elections democracy takes us. Just count the votes, declare a winner and proclaim a victory for democracy. And what happens after that is not their business – never was and never will be their business. Their concern is with free and fair elections and their newfound slogan—the rule of law.
They don’t care for the rule of the people—all the people. Who cares what democracy throws up? If they lose, they lose. This is democracy at work. Majoritarian democracy replete with its spread sheets and Statements of Poll. And don’t forget the injunctions. Let the rule of law prevail.
Way back in 1961, Kwayana saw 2020 coming and he suggested power sharing. They turned it into partition. After the 1997 debacle, some of us of a then younger generation again saw 2020 coming, and like Kwayana did before us, we put power sharing on the table. We were asked all kinds of questions—how will it work? We were laughed out of town as idealists and impractical people. And we went our merry way.
Corbin, Roopnaraine and Thomas put APNU together as a first step towards power sharing. Once the Coalition took power, it governed as an anti-power sharing government and the others labeled it a PNC government. And here we are in 2020 on the edge once again. Kwayana, at age 95 and Moses Bhagwan again advance power sharing. The “democrats” again pour scorn on it. All they want is to count the votes in Region 4 and declare the winner – that would solve our 70-year-old problem.
So here is my thing. Count your votes. Declare your winner. And carry on. Satisfy your “democratic” urges. See you in 2025 or when you call another election when you will be shouting for democracy again.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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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