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From the highest to the lowest levels of state decision-making, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) cannot win political consensus that is the hallmark of modern democratic relationships. President Ali innocently admitted that instead exhibiting the qualities of compromise, forbearance and restraint that underpin democratic governance, he needs to show strength, which is the trademark of the autocrat. Notwithstanding six decades of history that show otherwise, under pressure to establish inclusive governance in Guyana, the PPP believes that it can demonstrate that alone it can successfully, democratically, manage Guyana. But the violence against innocent citizens that was used at Mocha, without all the available democratic means being exhausted, demonstrates that the PPP does not understand the meaning of democracy and that it cannot unilaterally manage this country.
Some say that what took place in Mocha is nothing but the PNC, in opposition, beating the ethnic drum, but even if that is true, it makes little difference to the fact that the PPP cannot rule without unnecessary force. It is likewise true that over the last 60 years, the PPP also played the ethnic card when the PNC was in government and sought to make a significant political move. But the PPP set upon dominance restricted its capacity to make democratic decisions by deciding not to speak seriously to the PNC. Even the ‘wicked’ Forbes Burnham and Cheddi understood the need for discourse and compromise and on many occasions reached mutual understandings.
The present conundrum should provide food for serious thought, but apparently the only thought that comes to the mind of the politicians and their usual self-interested entourages is how to manipulate the system to win and hold government. And the situation is even more alarming as the vast majority of the citizenry, having been schooled in the possibility – some would say even the inevitability – of divine intervention, pray and scribble notes to the media each day calling upon the politicians and their followers – which they themselves are – to cease acting ethnically so that we can become one nation!
In an article last week that I may comment upon at another time, Mr. Vincent Alexander correctly characterized Guyana. He claimed that notwithstanding banalities to the contrary, we are better described as ‘Different Peoples, One State, One Destiny’, and once again nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than when we come to consider the place at which the PPP has recently found itself in terms of permanent appointments of the leaders to the third of the three foundational pillars of democratic government. Its opponents have outwitted it in a fashion that allows the entire population to see it for the ethnic political arrangement it actually is.
For nearly two decades, ‘democratic’ Guyana has had to live with a compromise judiciary. The PPP has been in government for some 15 of those years, in which the government and opposition are required to but could not find consensus on persons they believe are fit to become the Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Chief Justice. The holders of these offices have been in an acting position for all this time and both the PNC and PPP regimes have been told by judicial authorities of every sort that it endangers and bring into question the independence of the judiciary when, as is at present the case, incumbents can be comparatively easily removed from office by the ruling group.
Two African persons have been acting as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice for over a decade. Over the years they have been generally applauded for their decisions, except in political cases where one of them has even gained notoriety in African circles as being biased in favour of the PPP. Recently, the opposition gave the government the green light to substantively appoint the incumbents (so far as I am aware this has never happened before) and even some PPP supporters are calling on the regime to make the appointments, but the PPP will not. The problem is obvious: the acting incumbents are Africans and the PPP will not trust Africans that are in truly independent positions. It cannot trust Africans at the head of such a pivotal institution that can possibly remove it from government.
It may be argued that the opposite is also true: but is it? To its detriment, the PNC demonstrated a far more liberal approach in relation to the no-confidence motion. Retrospectively, this writer criticised it for being too trusting when polygraph testing is available to be applied to everyone. But even if the PNC would have behaved similarly, herein lies Guyana’s democratic conundrum that reinforces the point that the present PPP government cannot administer an equitable, much less a democratic, state in Guyana. Mocha madness, force, is its modus operandi!
This essential dilemma pervades the entire social/political/economic spectrum. For example, GHK Lall calculated that a miniscule sum, 1.7% of the 2023 budget will go directly to the poor (SN: 19/01/2023). These people will remain and more likely become comparatively poorer if the current cost of living gap is not filled by increases in income, profits, remittances, etc. But we have seen where the PPP had to be cajoled by external forces to pay some public servants a decent wage. Furthermore, Stabroek News reported (21/01/2023) that there are some 600 ‘Black’ (note; not ‘African’) entrepreneurs, many of whom are interested in government contracts but we are told that in 2022, ‘72.8% of the total dollar value of awards went to businesses owned or operated by Guyanese of Indian descent, 10.4% of contracts awarded were to businesses owned or operated by Guyanese of African descent, 7.1% of the total dollar value of awards went to businesses owned or operated by Guyanese of African descent’ (11/01/2023)!
Need I say more? Since Cheddi Jagan and the retirement from office of Janet Jagan, every step of the way, PPP rule has been focused on political/ethnic dominance and the maintenance of winner-takes all political system that has continued to stultify progress in Guyana. Mocha madness is the logical outcome!