So, there are two parallel conversations emanating from the March 2 elections. First, there is the conversation about rigged elections and democracy which is coming from two directions—the PPP and its hardcore supporters and from a group of independent minded citizens who may or may not be PPP supporters. Then there is the other conversation which seeks to move beyond the elections impasse to speak to the underlying causes and potential consequences and what could be done to contain the situation. This conversation is confined to a small group of which I am a part. While both conversations are valid, my view is that until we could marry the two, we are not moving the larger discourse. At the moment we are either talking past or shouting at one another.
Those who argue that the impasse is about electoral democracy are wittingly and unwittingly silencing the underlying ethnic competition for power that is driving the developments. The PPP continues to argue that the impasse has nothing to do with race; that it is purely about the PNC rigging the election. If one takes that position, then there is no need for reconciliation and shared governance. The logic is that the PPP, if it wins, can govern on its own. The independents also play down the ethnic element; they take a position that democracy does not have a colour.
However, what they all miss is that the PPP advocates and the independents are predominantly of one ethnicity. One just has to go through the letters section of Stabroek News, Kaieteur News and Guyana Times and take a look at the large percentage of letters which echo the PPP line. I am not arguing that they all take their que from the PPP, but there is a clear convergence of advocacy. In many regards, the advocacy against rigged elections and for the upholding of democracy have taken on an ethnic face. And by extension, the pro-rigging and anti-democracy forces are of another ethnicity.
This exposes the myth that the discourse is purely about democracy. I am arguing that the anti-rigging and pro-democracy narrative is a mask for Indian Guyanese fear of being governed by the other and a desire to be governed by their own. It is why the independents; the foreign observers and the diplomatic community have found themselves in a bind. I think when they declared the PPP the winner of the election after the tabulation of the Region 4 votes, they thought that that would be the end of it. Now, thirteen weeks later I think they have had enough time to reflect on the complexity of the situation before us.
This is where the other conversation comes in. Those of us who venture there are basically contending that what we are witnessing is more than just a fight over an election; it is a fight over which of the two ethno-racial parties, and by extension the two major ethnicities, should govern Guyana on its own. It is a fight for ethno- political domination. So, those who innocently are championing the “democratic” cause are also unwittingly embracing ethnic domination by one group.
It should be noted that those who are advocating for reconciliation and a sharing of the governance are also mostly of one ethnicity—power sharing advocacy has an ethnic face. As someone who belongs to this tendency, I know that many Indian Guyanese independents support power sharing. But given the trajectory of the discourse thus far, it is almost impossible to talk about democracy and power sharing in one breath. For many of the democracy advocates, power sharing is now anti-democratic.
In case we have not been paying attention, since March 2, we have become a viler people. The way we speak about the opposite ethnicity in public media is appalling. We justified what happened on March 6 by pretending it never happened. Hate has become normalized. I, for example, have been accused of being against election and of supporting rigging. Many Indian Guyanese who once saw me as a fair commentator have now labeled me a racist. They threaten to boycott programmes on which I participate. I am characterized by all the stereotypes of the Blackman with ease and venom—loud, stupid, violent, ugly, uneducated.
People are permitted to criticize and demonize me in two daily newspapers which deny me the right to reply by refusing to publish my letters. My only sin is that I have not attached my name to their narratives. But I have faith in Guyana. I still think we can work it out together and stay together as a country. That is why in the face of venom and hate, I persevere.
(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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