I had the good fortune of growing up, politically, in one of the decisive political movements in Guyana and the wider Anglophone Caribbean. I speak of the radical post-colonial movement that spawned the first three decades of independence. It was a movement that began with the Black Power upsurge of the mid to late 1960s and morphed into an anti-dictatorial movement that sought to transform Caribbean society away from its colonial legacies.
In Guyana, the movement had several organizations, some of which came together to form the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) in 1974. By the time I formally joined the movement, the cry for Black Power had given way to a broader cry for People’s Power.
I was still very much a teenager who had been socialized in a very Afrocentric village where it was commonplace to feel for and think strongly of your cultural heritage. I therefore took defence and affirmation of my African identity as a norm. I didn’t think that I had to make apologies to anyone about that.
Of course, seeing the indomitable Eusi Kwayana in the flesh everyday playing his role on the national stage and apologizing to nobody for being African, obviously played a role in my youthful cultural boldness. So, when I joined the WPA and became part of the People’s Power movement, I saw no reason to shed my Black Power. And nobody asked me to. Not Rupert Roopnaraine or Moses Bhagwan or Joshua Ramsammy or one of my favourite comrades, Bissoon Rajkumar.
The radical People’s Power Movement in which I grew up was multi-racial in leadership and followership. It had to be. After all, this was Guyana, a very multiracial society. My participation in that movement taught me two fundamental things about ethnicity. First, true multiracialism or multiethnicity means balancing your cultural identity with your commitment to a broader ethnic equality based on a shared humanism. Second, fidelity to your ethnic identity should not be a barrier to standing up to the wrongs of your ethnic group. I take those teachings with me wherever I go and to whatever issue I lend my activism.
Time moved on and so did that radical movement in which I cut my political teeth. Ironically, that multiracial movement was undermined and eventually dismantled by the very logic of its activism. The electoral democracy which we fought for turned out to be the antithesis of multiracialism.
The post-1992 “democracy” was characterized by a most dangerous ethno-domination by the elites of one ethnic group and extreme marginalization of another. This domination was supported by the working people of that group. As the political marauders consumed every facet of life in Guyana, many African-Guyanese blamed the African-Guyanese leadership of the WPA for overthrowing our own “dictator” and empowering the “dictator” of another ethnicity to once again enslave African-Guyanese.
That was a telling criticism that could not be ignored. We have never discussed it within the WPA, but all of us have had to grapple with it. None of us regretted our activism against the African-led PNC regime. If confronted with the same regime again, I would join the fight against it. But there is a but. This time around I would not only oppose the regime, but would pay as much attention to what we replace the regime with.
That was one of the big lessons of the anti-dictatorial movement of the 1970s-80s. We fought for democracy, but did not sufficiently appreciate how “democracy” could turn into ethnic domination and ethnic marginalization. Our struggle for “democracy” had delivered our country into the hands of what Freddie Kissoon called “Ideological Racism”. To be fair, the WPA wanted the outgoing regime to be replaced by a power sharing Government of National Unity, but the more electorally powerful PPP had other ideas, and the rest as the say is history.
Fast forward to the present. Since the No-Confidence Vote of December 2018, we have witnessed the emergence of a cabal–not a movement–that is prepared to use the rhetoric of democracy to reinstall the old regime that was cut short in 2015. Since there is no dictatorial PNC to justify their “democracy crusade”, they had to create one. And they were helped by some PNC leaders who stupidly walked into the trap set for them by treating the Coalition as if it were a PNC government.
History will forever be unkind to them for that basic error. But even so, the APNU+AFC government was not dictatorial, and did not have a pattern of abuse of the rule of law. Mistakes yes, but dictatorship no.
But that does not deter the PPP from mobilizing a lot of decent and upstanding citizens of mostly one ethnic group to lend their names to this most recent defence of democracy. The symbol of the death of democracy is the ongoing saga which they claim was precipitated by the PNC’s attempt to steal the election.
I honestly think the democracy crusade is ultimately an enabler of one side of a bitter fight with ethnic overtones. I refuse to lend my name to that crusade which predictably is interpreted as support for rigging. Nothing I say to the contrary will change that perception, so I would not try. I will not join any democracy crusade that would set one race against another or empower one race party over the other.
But I will say this. Armed with a history of activism and with the memory of recent history, I think this impasse could be an opportunity for a reawakening of our desire to live together in harmony. As uncomfortable as the last month has been, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise—an outcome to remind Guyanese that Guyana belongs to all of us.
Towards that end, I have lost interest in what is in those ballot boxes. I do not think national reconciliation and a peaceful Guyana reside in those boxes. The content of those boxes spell trouble—more trouble. Perhaps there will be a recount. And neither side would accept the outcome of that recount if it is allowed to be concluded. And God knows what would happen.
On March 10, Henry Jeffrey, Clem Seecharan and I appeared on a radio program hosted by Dennis Chabrol. Jeffery and I agreed that the results of this election would get us nowhere and floated the idea of an Interim government.
I repeat my proposal here. Scrap this election. Destroy those boxes. Install an Interim Government led by Granger as president and the PPP man as Prime Minister. Divide the Cabinet equally between the two sides. Go back to the old parliament. Set up an Independent Commission tasked with structurally overhauling GECOM, changing the governance architecture and the electoral laws to ensure outcomes that are in keeping with power sharing. Give them two years to do that and then go back to elections.
(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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