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– The worst is yet to come if the Stampede is not Stopped.
When in 1992, the PNC was voted out of office after twenty-eight years in government, some of us felt that the best way to transition Guyana away from authoritarian rule was to put in place a government of national unity comprising the PPP, PNC and other less electorally formidable but important political forces. The WPA actually proposed such an interim government to cover the period from 1990, when elections were constitutionally due, to 1992 when it was actually held. This period became necessary because time was needed to put in place the electoral reforms agreed to by the political parties under mediation by President Jimmy Carter. The PNC agreed to the WPA’s suggestion, but the PPP disagreed—the latter preferred to wait to hold power on its own—a scenario that was all but guaranteed given the ethnic arithmetic at that time.
The failure to install a broad based , multiparty, power sharing government in 1992 was a colossal mistake that has haunted Guyana ever since and its ghost can be vividly seen in the current situation in the country. It provided space for the PPP to utilise the authoritarian state, which it refused to dismantle, to implement its ideology of ethno-political dominance under the guise of democratic transition. During that time, many of the elites outside the PPP along with hardcore PPP supporters who had embraced the misguided thesis that any government that succeeded an authoritarian regime must by necessity be democratic felt paralysed by that logic—they could not oppose in any sustained manner the growing and glaring excesses of the PPP government. This paralysis by the elites provided necessary space for the flourishing for the rise of the criminalised authoritarian State under the PPP. By the time the tide had turned enough against the PPP to facilitate its electoral defeat, twenty-three years of decay had taken its toll on an already decadent State and ravaged country.
The half-way broad based, multiparty, power sharing government (minus the PPP) that came to office in 2015 gave a glimmer of hope that the 1992 mistake would be avoided. But that hope quickly went up in flames as the top leadership of the new government displayed a palpable lack of vision and political sensitivity coupled with an absolute unawareness of its own reason for being. . By the time of the 2020 election, that experiment had partly self-destruct and was partly outmaneuvered out of office.
Unlike 1992 when the then government had amassed a long track-record of authoritarianism, this 2015-20 government was actually clumsy and unimaginative rather than authoritarian. But this did not prevent some local elites and political forces in collusion with foreign interests from framing that government in authoritarian terms. These interests utilised the country’s porous electoral machinery to do two decisive things. First, it skillfully used the courts’ conservative bent on electoral matters to legitimise faulty aspects of the machinery that worked in the PPP’s favor. Second, it selectively invoked the old bogeyman of electoral malpractice against the PNC-led APNU+AFC while simultaneously silencing stark documented instances of electoral fraud unearthed by an official recount-audit of the votes. Again, the courts’ conservative interpretation of the law partly facilitated this process.
As was the case in 1992, the outcome was the installation of a PPP government ostensibly with a mandate to restore democracy, in particular electoral democracy. This time the government entered office with the full cover of powerful foreign political and economic interests including the usually neutral CARICOM community. Also, as was the case in 1992, some powerful local elites—some deliberately and others unsuspectingly— provided the PPP with the democratic mask to hide its resumption of the ethno-political domination that was interrupted in 2015.
As some of us did in 1992, we insisted that in the face of a disputed election in which there were potentially no angels, the best way to ensure national stability and peace was to install a broad-based power sharing government—at a minimum on an interim basis. This suggestion was rejected, and we were branded supporters of “rigging.” Some of us have been accused of being driven by ethnic and political hatred of the PPP. Our detractors and some in the elite community not necessarily associated with the PPP have made their decisions based on the “Mingo Factor” while ignoring the “Recount Factor.” It is an act of omission that has shaken my own confidence in cultivating a space of “Reason and Justice” in Guyana.
Their cover has given the PPP government the impetus it needs to declare war on half the country’s electorate. The summary firings from jobs; the obscene use of the police to bring political charges from electoral fraud to cybercrime, to terrorise mothers and children seeking justice for loved ones and to coverup ethnic and political crimes; interference in the work of constitution bodies; unconstitutional setting up of parallel security bodies; open ethnic discrimination in the distribution of state resources; the blatant misuse of the parliamentary majority; the advance use of oil revenues to fund the PPP’s pet projects; and the criminalisation of opposition protests have combined to make Guyana a very dangerous place that can explode at any minute.
While the USA in the wake of a new presidency in that country has begun to show glimpses of a willingness to alter its role described above, the Guyanese “custodians of democracy” are either carrying on as if their truth is the only truth or are again paralysed by their own logic. It is a repeat of recent history and worst is yet to come if the PPP’s stampede is not stopped.
(More of Dr. Hinds’ commentaries can be found on his website guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news and on his Facebook page Hinds’Sight Catch him on Facebook on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 pm for Politics 101 with Dr. David Hinds.)