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It is well known by now, at least by half the population, that the outcome of the 2020 election was so tainted by systemic manipulation and extra-electoral interference that one could hardly dignify it as free and fair.
At best what the country witnessed was an electoral coup which was partly facilitated by geopolitical considerations of external actors. So, despite the PPP’s declaration of itself as being democratically elected, it is well aware that any government that comes to power in such circumstances invariably lacks the legitimacy to govern. Democracy cannot be selectively invoked, particularly in a country like Guyana where democracy must have the imprint of ethnic inclusion and pluralism.
One of the lessons of the 2020 election is that elections are not simply sites of electoral contestation –they are also opportunities for internal and external forces to alter the will of the people to satisfy larger political and economic interests. In the case of Guyana’s 2020 election, the outcome cannot be divorced from the country’s status as a new potentially oil-rich country. In the final analysis the votes casted at the election were used as the raw material needed to install a government that is amenable to the interests of the stakeholders in the burgeoning oil industry. It is why the activists who are advocating for more national control of the oil sector finds themselves in a tangle. They supported the electoral coup for political reasons but did not expect that the ensuing government would govern at the behest of foreign forces who have no interest in national control of the oil sector.
So, after one year in office, the PPP has inevitably demonstrated that it is incapable of providing the kind of enlightened leadership that Guyana needs at this critical juncture of its history. In short, the government was not put in place to achieve that outcome. The government spent its first year in office rewarding those interests which provided the political cover and the financial muscles needed to pull off the electoral coup. One should not be surprised then that after one year in office, the government receives its loudest praises from the local elites who stand to benefit economically from Guyana’s oil wealth. One year after the 2020 Electoral Coup, Guyana is at a bad place
The economic woes that have blighted the country this past year thanks in part to the Covid19 pandemic has been exaggerated by the unwillingness of the government to provide the necessary macroeconomic interventions needed to stem the tide. While the government may be incompetent, it is not the incompetence that has stood in the way of economic turnaround. Rather it is the intentional decision by the government to push ahead with its agenda of ethno-capitalism, economic payback to political benefactors and ethno-political domination that is at the root of the economic problems. As, stated in the overriding priorities in the 2021 budget, arresting the underlying economic problems is not a priority.
One should also not be surprised that the country’s built-in ethno-racial condition has rapidly deteriorated this past year. Ethnic domination does not occur in an atmosphere of ethnic democracy and ethnic peace. The PPP’s ethnic-domination agenda flourishes in conditions of ethnic animosity and confrontation. For the PPP, ethnic domination serves a triple purpose. First, it provokes the rival ethnic group to extreme forms of retaliation which then serves as a source of fear for the Indian Guyanese community. Second, it allows the PPP to utilize both the formal coercive arm of the State and the informal phantom squads to restore “peace.” Third, it ensures that the country’s economic wealth is disproportionately placed in the hands of two ethnic groups while the two other major groups are systematically marginalized from wealth accumulation.
A third casualty of the 2020 ethnic coup is space to rally the country to a state in which it could take full advantage of the expected oil wealth. Any country that suddenly discovers oil must by necessity undergo fundamental systemic, political and cultural adjustments if it is to collectively benefit from the incoming wealth. National consensus, anti-poverty policies and a mass consciousness of the country’s place in the global framework are three urgent necessities. The PPP’s conscious decision to embark on a road that leads to confrontation is a deterrence to the realization of those goals.
So, what now? As I have previously opined, the PPP will not halt its current approach until there is an incentive to do so. Unlike the pre-Jagdeo PPP governments, the current one believes that the only way to survive is to pursue a confrontation mode of governance. This arises from a deep feeling that African Guyanese would never allow the PPP to govern without molestation due to what they perceive as an inherent African penchant for violence. It also flows from a feeling that when confronted with the force of the State, large sections of the African Guyanese community tend to choose accommodation over resistance.
The PPP is also bent on using the State to aggressively dominate the society as a cushion against any future resistance movement. Finally, the government is fully aware that the combination of opposition disarray and an unchanged US foreign policy towards Guyana allows more space for unchecked government overreach. In the end, only the power of the people on the move can effectively curtail the PPP.
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 Thursdays at 7 pm for Politics 101 with Dr. David Hinds.