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By GHK Lall
The more I think of it, the more there is the conclusion that Guyana is a strange country; an erratic and inconsistent one, to put it politely. Or a heavily bigoted one, to call it for what it is at the core. It involves this elusive business called clean governance, as in better governance; governance that is dependable, leadership that is trustworthy, results that are accurate and credible.
We claim to want it urgently, and when it is not there we know, and make a big stink about it, with our voices raised and our feet leading the way in public agitation. We did so before and got some movement. We need to do so again, given all that is happening, but this time we are as unmoving as the Seawalls, and as unconcerned as a swine rolling around in its regular rubbish, its overwhelming stench.
In the era of Burnham, Guyanese were up in arms and out on the streets. Not here! Not like this! No more of this! Behind all the noise and energy were the powerful perceptions of chronic leadership and governance wrongdoings. This was well-supported by broad general observations, individual and collective experiences, and disturbing domestic realities. It was all sound and made for sense that was strong, as well as straight. Like I said, there was movement on the political front, and the door was opened for a new age of governance in Guyana.
In the intervening years since then, now almost three decades in the making, this country has been visited with governments and leaders and governance circumstances that have covered all over the map. They have ranged from what is described as different and helpful (at best), to the utterly barbaric and ugly (not to overstate the situation) to an interlude that manifested a bit of ease (in some material respects) for approximately five years, and to a state of near absolute horror (to put in an understated fashion) in the near two years of current leadership.
To compress 30 years of leadership and governance in 30 words take a lot of doing, but I try. We have had unbelievably costly corruptions, a runaway two-headed beast called drugs and money laundering, more claims of rigging, more states of agitating, and incomparable leadership vileness. To those I would add inexplicable killings (some criminal, others extrajudicial), the double standards of injustice, and always the thick, deep, and ever-rising strains of prejudices and the partisan passions that they power.
While there was a cross-sectional gathering of Guyanese to challenge openly the heavy excesses of Burnham and the PNC (minus the drug dealings and money washings), there has been nothing of the kind when more of the same, and more of the worse that has never been experienced here before, have become the embedded character and conduct of both leadership and what pretends to be governance for most of 23 years, and now all of the near last two years.
What has happened now, and what is different about Guyana and Guyanese this time around? The same governance corruptions, the same heavy-handed leadership states and fears, and the same overpowering abhorrence and the results of the 60s, 70s, and 80s of the 20th Century are the very things that now infest the anxiety-filled lives and the simmering living conditions of Guyanese in this second millennia. And the key is that it is to a greater extent in every area, plus some newer and slicker ones that are swiftly becoming the norm of today’s Guyana, where governance is concerned.
Nobody is saying much of anything now, even though quite many recognize and are feeling the effects of what is operating in both high leadership and government quarters. Other than for a few springing up here and there to register some fight, there is indifference, lots of lethargy, even much malaise and the apathy that comes from all those. The few voices raised in protest against the leadership and governance onslaughts of the present are listened to, then routinely dismissed. Some may say that it is a different time. I think the truth is that we have become a different people.
What united before (corruption, poor leadership, troubled states) all take a backseat to a political partisanship that is hard and unyielding. To say that there is edged racial underpinning hits the nerve, but that’s all, for there is contentment with that ugly individual and communal brutishness, regardless how it undermines the future of the national state. What made leaders worry before is now largely condoned, so they feel free to make a mockery of accountability, while having a loud laugh over transparency. The leadership attitude is: who cares? It is one of ‘we are in charge, there are no contenders.’
The smugness and shallowness-crookedness and barbarousness also-come from the belief that there are fearsome foreign friends that will not fail in the crux, should matters get warm. The repeated lesson of history is that complacency and misplaced insensitivity occur too frequently, including right here. Because when a sufficient cohort of citizens rise up in unmanageable indignation, then all bets are off. Foreigners weigh what is best for their interests, while watching for which natives offer the best allies forward.
As the daily reality of Guyana seethe with bigger wedges being driven more deeply by leaders in this PPP Government into wider segments of this society, Guyanese will come to a crossroad that forces them to decide what they stand for, and what they are inside. Only so many can be bought out; so many fooled for so long; and so many lacking in what it takes to be a contributory presence towards these ideals called democracy, inclusive governance, and trusted leadership.
We cannot go on as a society when we are one way at one time, and then another at a different time, when the compelling national issues are unchanged, and just as burning. We are either as one for what is nationally wholesome, or we are nothing.