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By GHK Lall
The strange happened during the week, when His Excellency, President Ali came to his senses and humbled himself to a limited extent. The President decided that it was wiser to shift the narrative, and rebrand himself and his ‘One Guyana’ initiative, vision, or plan. Or whatever else it may be, but which he can’t take the liberty of mentioning publicly.
The new and improved version of the President’s change of course is his overnight marketing that ‘One Guyana’ is not political in nature, content, or expression. On a good day, I would give the President the benefit of the doubt, and take his new ploy at face value. His problem is that a considerable number of citizens, a watchful and angry segment of this society, would reflexively give the back of their hand to this new development about ‘One Guyana’ not being political. What he succeeds in doing is only to make matters worse.
Because now there is sturdy belief that President Ali thinks some Guyanese are pushovers, that they will swallow any new line he designs, and that they are either blind to what has and is happening in day-to-day Guyana or fools. What the national leader should have started out with from the inception of this ‘One Guyana’ program, he now does an about face and comes up with what is nothing but the latest farce. Here is the hard and fast of where the President is: he has not governed; he has played politics. He squandered opportunity after opportunity to demonstrate that he was truly about all Guyana, and what represented authentic inclusion, and not what was unerringly, rankly partisan, and in very blatant ways, too.
Due to the hole that he has dug for himself, and which has reduced his ‘One Guyana’ mission to a wounded, limping reality, I extend a word of counsel to the young, still learning leader. I appreciate that it is difficult for him to take advice from contrarian citizens, which is a direct result of his high office going to his head, but I persist. In the shortest possible sentence, his words have not been matched by equivalent works. For, as I see it, ‘One Guyana’ cannot deliberately include almost one group of people time and again, and just as repeatedly (and clearly purposely) exclude most of another set just as often.
I elaborate. When there is, on the one hand, crafty targeting of selected people for the helping hand of the public treasury, then that is what contributes to one stretch of the roadblock that the President encounters. How could this be so? What about this side of divide, demographic, despair, and embedded in those is the other aspect of the contentiousness, distancing? All of us ought to remember that one: words without corresponding works are nothing. They are simply convenient, empty shells thrown about here and there to make people feel good about themselves, when there is nothing for them to feel good about.
I thought that the President would be smart enough to come to grips with another reality. In Guyana, delivering the vindictive has a way of backfiring quickly. The PPP’s mindset was that the PNC and its camps of near and distant supporters had to be taught a hard, sharp elections lesson for all the bad blood that came about between December 2018 and August 2020. Bad blood come from bad minds and leads to bad deeds. For some reason that is elusive to me, President Ali seems to get a kick out of reminding those standing in opposition to him, the reality of who won and is on top, and who lost and is at the bottom floating about, tending their open wounds. I have often cautioned that that is not a culture of leadership that endures, which is why his broadly broadcast ‘One Guyana’ is adrift.
Giving a handful of people a handout is not reflective of wholesome governance, but of calculated divide and drain, then rule politics. Nobody asked me, but that registers as both self-defeating strategy and tactics doomed to failure by one’s own hand. When the President had opportunity to be inclusive, he settled for the abusive and the aggressive. It should be apparent immediately that such an approach sabotages any clinging to ‘One Guyana.’ By the President’s way of reasoning, there must have been ‘One Guyana’ as concocted by him and his people, and there is that other ‘One Guyana’ that is made up of those who stand unmoved and unimpressed by his verbal blasts.
To give some much-needed credibility and oxygen to his ‘One Guyana’ mantra (old or new), President Ali had to figure out ways to be conciliatory. Regrettably, he went the other way and presided over the retaliatory. He now tastes his sores. If he really wanted to let his ‘One Guyana’ fantasy develop a head of steam, it was better spearheaded by the Ministry of Social Protection. In so doing there was a chance of dispatching some of that same ‘political’ out of its presence. Of course, like the man before him, the new President fancies himself that figure of myth: a man on a white horse and wearing a white hat. In essence, it is of duty, integrity, and purity, areas in which the President flails about aimlessly, casts a frail, pathetic shadow.
I wish that none of this were so, but there is a precedent, and it is one that hurts. After 23 years out of office, the PNC came up with ‘Social Cohesion’ when it held the reins of power. It was a portfolio all by itself, and the older brother of this newer quest for ‘One Guyana’. What hampered was that anywhere and anytime that Social Cohesion showed its face in PPP strongholds, it received an icy shower. The PPP brain trust had done its advance groundwork well, so there were few takers. Indeed, what goes around comes around. Most unfortunately for Guyana, this is where things are. President Ali would understand.