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The apparent growing arrogance of the PPP; its minimal communication with the official opposition, entrenchment of its supporters in strategic state positions, unilateral effort at electoral reforms, interference in police appointments, formation of the Regional Joint Support Teams, requiring visas for Haitians and Cubans, etc., have led to much concern in African circles. But this behaviour is not new: it is merely the continuation of what was halted after it lost the 2011 and 2015 general elections.
By 2005, the disturbances that had cost some 400 mainly African lives had been quelled and the PPP appeared unstoppable. Protestors, including parliamentarians, were shot and a few even killed by the security forces, and the PPP appeared on the verge of destroying or permanently suppressing African-associated institutions such as trade unions, and its dominance reached the point where it felt it had carte blanche to dictate to them where they should place the monuments representing their struggle against slavery.
But what is taking place is not in fact arrogance and to so label it would be to miss the entire point. It is the natural outcome of the pathway the PPP has chosen. I have argued before that when two ethnic groups control 80% of the geographic/political space there are only three ways of managing the society: geographically partitioning it, some form of shared-governance or various kinds of repression. At this stage, ethnically partitioning Guyana is not on anyone’s agenda and shared governance as never been on the agenda of the post-Cheddi Jagan PPP. That leaves repression, which is likely to increase as resistance to it grows. The recent events in Israel suggest that those who have adopted this type of course must be prepared for the long haul.
Do not be fooled by how events unfolded during the previous PPP regime. Then the PPP was deliberately allowed to become complacent by believing that the opposition was in its death throes. I argued in this column before that after the worst loss in its history in 2006, the leader and presidential candidate of the PNC, Mr. Robert Corbin, became the most vilified political party leader in the history of Guyana. He was said to have been bought out by the PPP and to have become a stooge of Bharrat Jagdeo. But Corbin quietly reorganise the PNC and delivered electoral defeat to the PPP in 2011 and again in 2015.
Indeed, so certain was the PPP of the PNC demise that in 2011 it blamed its loss on the lethargy of its supporters, but the bomb fell in 2015 with the opposition leader, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo exclaiming ‘they rigged the elections!’ Indeed, the PPP went on to file an election petition and at that point its leader wanted a new electoral list until, no doubt, he remembered the implications and possibilities of the status quo. Whether or not the PNC manipulated the elections, I have never quarreled with the PPP’S contention, but having no concrete proof I have many a times referred to it to indicate the precariousness of its position to the coalition government.
The future is unlikely to be as calm, for while coming up to 2015 it was beneficial for the PNC to feign resignation and allow the PPP to become complacent, as we are now witnessing, that strategy is unlikely to work again. Furthermore, while it was also recognised that the PNC was a minority party, the 2020 poll truly exposed the electoral underbelly of the PPP and a clean electoral list will very likely make it as much a minority as the PNC. Here again it will not easily want to relinquish the electoral advantages of the present status quo: thus the opposition is likely to have quite a struggle on their hands.
For me and for the good of Guyana I believe the major objective going forward is that the PPP is not allowed to undemocratically entrench itself in government. Whether the PNC will rise to this electoral challenge is left to be seen, for success will depend upon its capacity to hold together a viable democratic coalition as an effective fighting machine. Socialised in the Guyanese political environment in which talk of democracy is essentially for show, those currently in command of the PNC have already been found wanting. The party is in disarray as its maximum leader, Mr. David Granger, again exposes his autocratic inclinations by trying to unilaterally force two new parties upon the coalition.
Not even Forbes Burnham got away with what Granger is attempting. In the 1950s despite Burnham’s bidding, the PNC refused to join with the African middle class United Democratic Party for the 1957 elections and was refusing to do so again coming up to the 1961 elections until Burnham threatened to leave the party and Guyana if they did not agree. I wonder what would be the reception if Mr. Granger attempts this device.