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Many persons have asked me to put in writing part of what I have been doing on social media platforms since the installation of the PPP government in August 2020. In addition to my opposition and partisan advocacy and mobilization, I have tried to explain to my audiences the subtext behind the political developments in the country. The assumption is that while government action may appear to flow from a place of partisan vindictiveness, revenge and ineptitude, there is a larger context and agenda which are at work. The latter are grounded in Guyana’s overarching historical evolution and in the context in which the government came to power in 2020. My central thesis is that the government resulted from an inconclusive election which reflected the dangerous convergence of racial competition, geopolitical considerations and social-class greed. This convergence is driven and conditioned by Guyana’s newly found oil wealth.
Many persons opposed to the government are surprised at the extent to which the latter has gone to secure itself in power. Some have ventured with much justification to characterize this government as the most authoritarian in Guyana’s post-colonial history. Others who helped the government to power or succumbed to the simplistic narrative of democracy that took root during the five-month impasse are today aghast at the government’s dictatorial mode of governance. Even the American political establishment that played perhaps the most pivotal role in the outcome of the elections seems to be surprised by the government’s aggressiveness, stubbornness and disrespect for even minimum accepted norms of governance. What seems to be forgotten by these forces is that politics, like the humans who practice it, follow the logic of its origins. So, here goes.
Some people view the five-months electoral impasse from March to August 2020 as reflective of an unsuccessful attempt by one party to steal the election of that year and the success of another party in repelling that attempt. For those persons, the return to power of the PPP was a fair and just outcome since that party won the election. Everything that does not fit into that narrative is silenced. The bloated voters’ list, the anomalies uncovered by the controversial recount, the March 5 violence against the police and other citizens, including children, and the overt and covert involvement of foreign forces with economic and geopolitical interests are all swept under carpet.
Democracy has been invoked to justify this narrative. In effect, the narrative reduces democracy to electoralism or electoral outcomes. The means by which this “democratic” end was achieved are ignored—it is the end that matters. The narrative posits that democracy was saved—a formulation that assumes that democracy was firmly in place before the election and the regime that followed represents a democratic order.
It is the kind of narrative that sounds nice to the ear—it seems straightforward. But that’s where it ends. Like most narratives which ignore a clear and present reality, it is at best simplistic and opportunistic. Because it ignores the larger realities of the society, it sets up a collision of significant proportions that will ultimately render the country unstable. Any simplistic and opportunistic narrative in a divided society like Guyana would inevitably engender a counter narrative of the same quality, a more nuanced narrative or a combination of the two.
I am arguing that Guyana is caught in between the consequences of two narratives of its post-election reality and by extension its general reality. The outcome is an unstable country in which the side with institutional power uses it in an extreme authoritarian manner and the other side bereft of institutional power responds with the undermining power of the outsider. In these circumstances, every act by the government is scrutinized within that authoritarian context and those by the opposition are scrutinized as willful sabotage.
We therefore have a government that spends more time anticipating sabotage than actually governing and an opposition that spends more time protesting than organizing to take government. There is an interrelationship. In such a situation, it is the government which is at a disadvantage. The more it responds to opposition protests, the less it governs fairly and the more it reaches for dictatorial forms of contestation. For example, the Social Media platforms and outlets were born of a conscious decision by the independent media to shut out opposition narratives during the immediate post-election period. By the time the government realized what was happening, the opposition had discovered a powerful avenue for its propaganda and perspectives about the administration. An effective form of political socialization and mobilization has taken deep roots. Government’s attempt to counter this development via tyrannical means only serve to further entrench them.
The big lesson here is that those with mediating power must be careful not to succumb to simplistic narratives. This is the mistake which was made by many hitherto neutral forces in 2020—they took the easy way out. It is that pitfall that some of us avoided. This writer, for example, refused to join the narrative of “rigging” and “democracy” largely because it was obvious to me that it was a mask to either install a government and/or kick the ball down the road. I was kicked out of the Kaieteur News for that stance. The elections were too flawed to engender a fair outcome in favor of either of the two major contenders. And as we have come to learn, installing a one-party government in such circumstances results in authoritarian governance and its attendant hyper anti-government non-cooperation.
One irony is that the Kaieteur News which embraced the “democracy” narrative is today in the forefront of exposing the government’s duplicitousness, bad governance and authoritarianism particularly in the oil sector. There is only one jaded voice in the independent media which persists with that simplistic and opportunistic narrative. But that voice is too compromised to recognize that it is jaded, discredited and stands alone and naked. Libeling and defaming others on a daily basis to sustain simplicity and opportunism must be sad way to slide into old age. I agree—Call it a day.