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‘The core idea of the Politics of Fear is that as long as supporters need the leader to maintain power … this ruler can deviate from the preferred policy of his following in other matters and still keep their support. … In particular, it shows that a ruler that is kleptocratic, inefficient and costly to all groups in society may still have a basis of support that fears a change in the status quo. This is especially true if civil society is divided on ascriptive grounds. This basis of support may even be willing to fight to return to the previous status should their ruler be deposed. …. Consistent with the model, these tensions are exacerbated by a high degree of specific income easy to expropriate such as oil revenues’(https://gerardpadro.
Political accountability is one of the fundamental principles of representative democratic government and an accountable regime is one in which both the government and the elected members of the legislature are responsible to their constituents. It may include degrees of devolution, opportunities for voters to choose between candidates rather than parties, forms of recall, vetoes, referendums. etc. All in all, it provides checks upon those who fail to fulfill their manifesto and other promises and behave in a manner inimical to the interest of the people. That hardly a day passes without demands that the government of Guyana be held accountable is a clear indication that political accountability here is nonexistent or extremely weak.
Governmental accountability has been a problem since independence and has largely been responsible for Guyana’s poor socio/economic condition. However, what has been described as ‘the politics of fear’ has facilitated the possibility of politicians deriving political benefits from being unaccountable. Indeed, this has led to the suggestion that recently the politics of fear inherent in Guyana’s ethnically-based political system has made it possible for the government to deliberately design politically beneficial events the negative results of which they are clearly responsible but the blame is placed upon others. Two recent events: the ‘botheration’ concert with a Jamaican dancehall artiste Skeng and the Mon Repos market disturbances are demonstrations of this possibility.
If its intent was to fulfill its primary mission to protect the life, property and freedom of the citizenry, what ethnically-based government in its right mind would have countenanced a group of people, agitated by what they believe to be its discriminatory policies intended to impoverish them and its dilatory treatment of the extrajudicial killings of their people, marching through a commercial area largely owned by it supporters without adequate security arrangements. This becomes even more perplexing when we consider that rioting of the sort that occurred is not unusual and the government, with its numerous party and other sources on the ground, must have been aware of the march and enquired and been assured that the strategy of its security services was adequate to prevent the looting, robbing and beatings that took place. The results show that at best the regime is totally incompetent, but the politics of fear kicks in and its supporters and propagandists blamed most of all the rioters for what was clearly regime incompetence or mischief.
About a month before Mon Repos, the events at the ‘botheration’ concert, which resulted in glass bottles being thrown about, mace being sprayed and gunshots being fired in the air as patrons scampered for safety, got out of hand because of faulty planning and supervision by the police authorities and the organizers. Former Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe claimed that ‘I was given the task of creating a security protocol for those shows. The protocol was created and implemented. Incidents of unlawful gunfire and the use of mace at shows became a thing of the past’ (VV: 29/05/2022). The Guyana Police Force failed to implement the protocol but to give the impression of authoritative action, the performer, who since then has given similar concerts in other Caribbean jurisdictions without such disturbances, became the scapegoat and was banned by the government from plying his trade in Guyana. Relating to the non-use of the protocol, Slowe asked the obvious pertinent but unanswered question: ‘Weren’t the authorities aware of (it)? If not, why not?’
Given the ethnic nature of Guyana’s politics and the fragility of present governance, not surprisingly in both of the above cases one can discern, and many have, the deliberate intention to manufacture and/or enhance the negative perceptions of Africans and their activities in the mind of Indians to solidify the regime’s support in the context of substantial concern about its discriminatory practices, the rising cost of living, unprecedented levels of corruption, etc. But the politics of fear makes it possible for the regime to toy with even its supporters and then help to negate any fallout by throwing them pittances.
As indicated above, accountability is the bedrock of democratic government but unfortunately the capacity to successfully deflect one’s responsibility to others is inherent in our political system, in which civil society is ethnically fractured and the only real limit to an unaccountable government is the will of the leader. Though not as blatantly utilised as it at present is, this has been a permanent feature of political life in Guyana since independence. Bringing liberal democracy to these kinds of countries is extremely difficult. For example, Cyprus is still recognised by the United Nations as a single country but has been geographically divided between the Greek and Turkish communities since the 1950s with no end in sight.
In Guyana, some have placed their hopes in the changing demographics that point to the country becoming more of a multiethnic society, but even the limited improvement this development promises is being prevented by ethnic elite and group support for electoral manipulations intended to win or maintain total control of government. Thwarted again by the politics of fear!