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Like many autocratic regimes, simply because it ‘won’ supposedly free and fair elections, the PPP would like to consider itself a part of the liberal democratic world order. On the V-democracy index, Guyana is classed as an elected, veering upon an autocratic, democracy, but this does not bother the PPP: it’s behaviour is legally allowable – end of story! Now flush with oil money, it believes it is empowered to dispense with it in its usual authoritarian style, which will inevitably expand the ethnic and class wealth gaps.
As indicated before in this column, US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy doctrine views the growing autocratisation of the international system ‘as the most serious threat the democratic order has confronted in generations … At the heart of the new era of geopolitical competition is a struggle over the role and influence of democracy in the international order.’ The Biden doctrine focuses the United States on a grand strategy of fortifying the democratic world in its confrontation with autocracy, and a central feature of this project must be the democratization of its sphere of influence (‘Guyana’s democracy in US and World politics:’ VV; 05/06/2022).
Since the PPP does not appear to understand the above orientation, in 2020, in a statement that is rarely put so bluntly to national governments, the US State Department country report on human rights reminded Guyana’s political establishment that it does not represent the kind of democracy that is required in the present era and called upon it to end the present winner-takes-all system and establish a functioning liberal democracy appropriate to its context. But typical of small, poor countries with a misguided leadership, the PPP ignored this suggestion and hung its hat and hopes upon the Westphalian myth of state sovereignty!
Having been established that Guyana is sufficiently an opaque, kleptocratic state system to constitute a threat to the liberal rule-based international order, the very State Department invited the ruling oligarchs of the PPP to headquarters and they were extremely willing to comply. Thereupon, using Guyana’s own constitutional phraseology, the delegations were repeatedly lectured on the need for there to be inclusive and transparent democratic approaches in Guyana if the current level of state dysfunctionality is to be repaired and avoided in the future.
Whatever the PPP believed it was doing is not considered sufficiently transparent, inclusive and democratic and that party, indeed the entire political establishment, now knows well what is considered an acceptably democratic way forward. From my perspective, at the very least such democratization requires that the government must be answerable to substantially more than its narrow ethnic base and that this requirement must be established in constitutional and electoral arrangements agreed upon by substantially all Guyanese who are likely to be fundamentally affected by the policies of the extant regime.
We shall see how the PPP proceeds, but we must hope that it does not take the advice of outlandish supporters who are suggesting that because of the undoubted economic progress Singapore has made, it is some kind of a model for Guyana. They might well have pointed to Chile, where the autocratic ruler General Augusto Pinochet is credited with setting the foundation for it to become in 2010 the first South American nation accepted in the Organisation of Economic Corporation and Development. With a firm Chinese majority in his corner, Lee Kwan Yew’s dictatorial rule was not particularly benign. Si‘As President Ali’s requested: Part 3:’ VV; 13/03/2022). Singapore is classed lower than Guyana as an ‘elected autocracy.’ But even more relevant for Guyanese, I hope – as seen below – that it is not being suggested that an acceptable political state can be constructed on the kind of ethnic hegemony that still exists in Singapore.
‘Because it is not a liberal democracy and views immigration policy as politically sensitive, Singapore’s People’s Action Party (PAP) refuses to publish precise, detailed statistics on temporary and permanent migration into the city state. This paper, therefore, attempts to estimate the proportion of immigrants who belong to the major ethnic groups in Singapore: Chinese, Malay, and Indian. Using official data and making various assumptions, we calculate the number of immigrants by ethnicity over the history of the island state. We conclude that the PAP government continues to use immigration policy to maintain Chinese ethnic hegemony and disadvantage the Malay minority. …. As our calculations show, the PAP’s migration policy appears to massively discriminate against the Malay minority in favor of Chinese newcomers by barring entry of the former and encouraging large scale Chinese immigration …. Proponents on the government’s position may argue that Chinese immigrants are better skilled and therefore more sought-after. Others, however, would maintain that this is yet another form of social engineering to maintain the PAP’s grip on power and Chinese racial hegemony. In rebuttal, the ruling regime would likely assert that the Malay population should remain low to avoid race riots. Noting the controversial nature of both the government’s policy and populace’s response, we find it interesting that the government doesn’t want these data publicized’ (file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/RacialHegemony_ MillanFetzer.pdf). The policy remains but has recently been made public.
The ethnic quarrel that has plagued Guyana for decades is not about the fact of ethnic prejudice and discrimination but is essentially about the interpretation of those facts. With the same facts I can offer a different credible interpretation, and that is precisely what happens in all competitive democratic political situations. But since neither Indians nor Africans trust the leadership of the other side to interpret the world for them, conflicts will ensue until a suitable system of reconciliation is established. Such is the logic of an ethnically fractured bicommunal society.
I am aware that notwithstanding the usual moral orations, political behaviour is rooted in various forms of ‘self-interest’, so let us hope that the recent developments have quelled one such bundle of interests and now that of the citizens can take its rightful place at the top of the national agenda.