TO SURVIVE AS A STRONGMAN OR FACE POLITICAL DEATH

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…..Strategic decision-making and the Region 4 Declaration 

Strong men rise from the ashes of rebellions and revolutions. They emerge after bloody battles with rivals. They are often forged in cataclysm. Above all, the state apparatus remains that eternal edifice that feeds their lust for power.

But what happens when statesmen and stateswomen whose characters are far removed from the intricacies of authoritarianism, are called to choose this dastardly state of existence as a means of sudden political survival? It cannot be done. It is a pure deer in the political headlights moment. As you may have gathered by now, I am seeking to discuss whether the President should have refused to give up power and ride roughshod over serious international concerns about the first Region 4 Declaration.

I am putting it to you; having failed to properly strategize, once he reached this cul-de-sac of political incompetence, the wisest decision was to vacate the Presidential chair.

In deep conversation with Henry Kissinger, the Chinese statesman and leader, Zhou Enlai cautioned: ‘It is too early to assess the impact of the French Revolution’. This was said decades after the historical upheaval. Maybe the Communist elder statesman was concerned, inter alia, that if the Historian’s pen is too anxious, it may produce premature conclusions. It is good practice to pay respect to his principle but oftentimes, writers must intervene and do so with dispatch.

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THE GEOPOLITICAL GRIP 

While the population waited with bated breath. While the fears and anxieties of coalition constituencies were taken to the Lord in prayer. While the political apparatchiks labored in the political vineyards and peripheries, the geo-political cards were already stacked against the coalition. It can be likened to Kung Fu grip.

On March 31st, the faces of Ambassador Raychelle Omamo SC, EGH, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya. Ministers and Representatives of Australia, Barbados, Belize, Ghana, Malaysia, Namibia and the United Kingdom, popped up on a teleconference call. Guyana was on the agenda, not for its oil and certainly not for its gold. This time, the nascent oil and gas economy was in trouble for its elections. The red line was drawn. The coalition was on the wrong side of very powerful forces at the highest level. They declared: any government based on the Region 4 Declaration would lack legitimacy. Similar events occurred at the level of the Caricom, OAS and more. Now, those familiar with these matters would know that when these maneuvers begin to manifest, any sitting government is faced with two choices: either relinquish power or give the reigns over to a strongman. Those unfamiliar with these affairs would seek succor under the argument of sovereignty and the folly of baseless defiance. At the level of the people, they would not be too concerned with these arcane matters. For them, you must cling to power at any cost. For this reason, it behooves responsible leaders to tell them the truth. By June of 2020, the coalition government’s only chance was riding on a decision to become a pariah government or bow to the will of the global community.

REGIME CHANGE AND STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

Before we proceed, disabuse yourself of any notion that this is some defense of anyone. Leaders who find themselves in this impossible circumstance would have failed to lead. There is no excuse for falling victim to such a large conspiracy while being the custodian of the all-powerful state apparatus. A copy of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s ‘Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar’ ought to be recommended. Once political incompetence gets you to this point, it is folly to fight a losing battle. At that juncture of the idiocy, it is not about cowardice or bravery. No amount of cowardice can outdo that level of unprecedented ineptitude. Therefore, to argue that the President didn’t have guts to do what needed to be done is baseless in my estimation.

\Now, the regime change theorists have consistently argued that the Guyana 2020 elections were a naked attempt to depose the duly elected government of Guyana. I have no doubt, the lobbying efforts of the opposition party certainly bore fruits. However, insofar as it did, it was like taking the cake from a baby. When Washington saw its efforts backed up by a plethora of strange geopolitical bedfellows, it was perfect. Probably for the first time under the Trump administration, Mia Motley and Ralph Gonsalves were in the same corner united on a major regional issue. Mia and Ralph were seen as obstructionists of Pompeo’s manoeuvering in the Caribbean. I am certain that the dossier on Ralph Gonsalves at the State Department has written in bold: ‘Lefty, suspected Communist, sympathetic to Cuba and Venezuela’. But yet, here was the US and these iconic Caribbean leaders, like strange bedfellows, united on the issue of the Regional 4 Declaration. When these rear cataclysmic geopolitical interests converge against you, to challenge it would be a descent into hell. It is for this reason, I contend that the decision to back off and allow the formation of a government, albeit, based on dubious numbers was prudent. The only option was the long dark journey into destructive high autocracy. Of course, the fallout is political death at the domestic level because the rank and file members are not too concerned about these academics matters. They would say: we are prepared to eat dry bread with you but it is also they who will pick up their pitchfork and torches when you fail to provide for them.

THE DOMESTIC SITUATION    

If efforts to disregard serious concerns at the highest global levels about the Region 4 Declaration had prevailed, the political opposition would have had their finest moment in Guyana’s history. With influence over private sector organizations, huge parts of the criminal underworld, a well-oiled and financed machinery, energized diaspora support, deals sealed with the US Secretary of State, linkages in the region and beyond and an unwavering base in the age of social media, the political opposition would have brought hellfire to the doorsteps of Shiv Chanderpaul Drive. Coupled with a pandemic, no budget and a no-confidence motion still in process, this confluence of factors rendered any decision not to walk away, almost a strange bout of political insanity.

Once a government is left on a lonely island with that level of dovetailing between international and domestic pressure, the only resort would have been to the armed forces and a strongman. Let us dispassionately face it, at a particular point during the imbroglio, the jig was up. My desk was already cleared. Which leader within the coalition orbit was prepared to be the next Idi Amin Dada Oumee or Viktor Orban?

Strategic decision-making must never be the last gasp scramble for survival. It must be done at the beginning and not the end. It must be cultural, not a fleeting option. It doesn’t matter how strategic you jumped from the ship, it doesn’t change the fact that you failed to ensure the ship didn’t sink.



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