Sharing power or what some have dubbed as a ‘win-win’ system, that is sharing executive wealth, benefits, control and power for a selected few, is the current dialogue. Power sharing goes back to the 1960s when Eusi Kwayana (formerly Sydney King) first introduced the concept to the Guyanese nation. Power sharing originally conceived aims at remedying perceived ethnic insecurities between two of Guyana’s major ethnic groups—Indo and Afro Guyanese.
There is a shyness among those who talk about ethnic insecurities to reveal the racial and racist politics that exists among the two major ethnic groups, one that affects not just their relations between each other but all other ethnic and mixed identities—the entire nation. Given the turmoil of today’s politics we see no difference, and those in the incumbent wish to return to talks of power sharing rather suspiciously after proclaiming victory at the 2020 General election with GECOM currently in their favour thanks to dubious activities of the Region Four Returning Officer.
Editor, there is a vital aspect of power that we are not discussing, that is we are not talking about limiting power, especially powers bestowed upon the Presidency or the executive branch in general. Power sharing without limitation to go with it is in this sense just an oligarchical means to an end. Let me explain.
What is an oligarchy? The term comes from ancient Greek oligarkhía which means ‘few to rule’. In the ancient city of Athens, a once prosperous society from which democracy itself stems from, thinkers have long suspected the futility of Athenian democracy. They realized that while the few govern in the interest of the people, they can also act in the interest of maintaining themselves, that is to continue to remain in power.
All democracies are prone to an oligarchic rule. But there are mechanisms in place, or should be, to ensure this tap of sacred power doesn’t run for long to any one or any group’s favour. This is why we have regular elections, legislation to empower checks and balances, and so on. The problem is that there will never be enough measures in place to safeguard against an oligarchy. It could be we don’t even realize we are witnessing the rise of one right before our eyes.
On the matter of power sharing in Guyana, I contend that we cannot have shared governance, of whatever sort, made manifest without a critical examination of the governance power structure that exists, one that is structured in such a way that it favours an immensely racial oligarchical system among two ethnically motivated tyrannical and cyclical wills. Rotational power sharing mechanisms would not eliminate nor dismantle the oligarchic establishment which pervades both institutionally and democratically. Without appropriate checks and balances, the end result could be dire for a democracy.
Think of the elected as guardians who are responsible for the nation’s wellbeing. Like shepherds who watch over their flock, these guardians ensure the state is taken care of while asking for the favour of the people in return. But crucially, who are the ones watching over them to ensure responsible and appropriate use of power? This is an age-old problem that modern democracies have aimed at addressing, some with successes, others yet to improve.
Whenever a democracy goes through changes in the general will or there are growing demands due to cultural shifts it is the people who are the ones responsible for this. Furthermore, if the general will or the changing cultural landscape presents what may seem to be a threat to an oligarchic status quo, the privileged elites who make up the oligarchy would forge new methods and strategies to safeguard themselves against it. Change is their greatest enemy since the established structure and all the rhetoric that goes with it enables them to prosper. They prosper because it works largely to their favour.
What’s an oligarch to do? They may form coalitions, for instance, to sustain their relevance and impact, brokering deals with sub-level elites who enter into the field of politics supported by an almost cultish following of change, some may call it revolution. What’s so threatening about this? The remodeling of the social ethos driven by a new kind of consciousness. This is when the oligarch wants to tune the consciousness back in line with the status quo. If they are to win, we would obey and listen. But if we are to deconstruct what keeps us down, we would revolt and ignore.
Whatever possible, the goal of the oligarch is to ensure the status quo remains intact and well maintained, for it is what they depend on as no status quo means no longstanding privileged political class.
While most beg for equality in the name of justice, this justice, for the most part, has been enshrined and made manifest already for the select few who are supposed to grant universal egalitarian needs. Whenever there is a fallout or someone wishes to jump ship, the oligarchical structure remains unaffected by satisfying quarrels or qualms among themselves, all while the people who fund them bicker and do their bidding almost unquestionably.
If we think one person becoming a tyrant is worrying, try enabling sixty five ‘well-offs’ who won’t be going anywhere anytime soon because they will be well taken care of and fed, until they decide to depart, become ex-communicated, perhaps lose grip on retaining a privileged spot at the table of shared corn, or, dare I say, become deceased.
The bottom line: let’s talk about limiting power before we talk about sharing untamed power.
Ferlin F. Pedro
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