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Writing in response to my Village Voice article ‘Mocha Madness,’ Mr. Harry Nawbatt claimed that Cheddi Jagan made a mistake to believe that ‘Jeffrey could have been a person who could be relied on to make an objective assessment of a political situation.’ (Guyana Chronicle: ‘It is One Guyana, Mr. Jeffrey, One Guyana,’ 28/01/2020). I value the opinion of Cheddi Jagan on almost any subject more than that of Mr. Nawbatt. The problem with his kind of ramblings is that the time and space it takes to make sense of them far outweigh their intellectual or practical value.
Perhaps playing to the political gallery by merely regurgitating what he was fed, Mr. Nawbatt began: ‘It took former President Jagdeo to psyche him out and found out that he was more talk and less action, in fact an armchair “intellectual,” which became clearly evident with the discredited positions he took during the discussions surrounding the European withdrawal of the sugar subsidies.’ My dispute with the former president was about his failed last minute attempt to get the Caribbean to refuse to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, not specifically with the ‘sugar protocol’. By the time I became the Minister of Foreign Trade in the third quarter of 2006, the discourse on the ‘sugar subsidy’ was all but over. Indeed, at my first meetings on this issue, the regional lawyers reported that suing the European for wanting to end the ‘sugar protocol’ was a waste of time.
Briefly, the following article published in 2005 points more poignantly to who ‘psyched out’ whom! “Reforms have been lacking on the domestic front, despite ACP countries being given clear signals about the need for reform when the Cotonou Agreement was adopted (in 2000). The objectives of the Cotonou Agreement and the Special Preferential Sugar Agreement centered on the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy. … these countries seemed to have ‘suffer[ed] from a seminal weakness in arguing for keeping ‘non-reciprocal, discriminatory preferences’ during their negotiations with the European Union, wishfully hoping the benefits would continue” (Pacific Economic Bulletin Volume 20 Number 3 2005 © Asia Pacific Press).
Secondly, Mr. Nawbatt wants irrefutable evidence of the PPP ‘over the last 60 years playing the ethnic card.’ From aapan jaat in the 1950s to ethnic dominance today, the PPP, like the vast majority of politicians in divided ethnic societies, has played the ethnic card. And, Mr. Nawbatt, I am certain that you are aware that political behaviour is rooted in belief as much in fact, otherwise you would not have been throwing about primary school aspersions about who is ‘singing for their supper’ without, as you have confessed, being in possession of the facts that led to that comment. Political parties do change over time: it is just that the PPP has deteriorated and I hold that sufficient evidence exists that points to its objective of ethnic dominance located at the dictatorial end of the democratic governance continuum. More importantly, a significant portion of the population believes the PPP to be racist and the issue has become disruptive to national development and cohesion. Thus there exists a prima facie case for any responsible government to perform an inclusive ethnic disparity audit with clear timelines and objectives to refute such claims or at least, diminish their political value.
Minor matters aside, Harry Nawbatt has two main concerns. One has to do with the PPP’s highly autocratic approach to governance as reflected in the case of Mocha where I argued that the use of state violence against innocent citizens without all the available democratic means being exhausted demonstrates that the PPP does not understand the meaning of democracy and that it cannot unilaterally democratically manage Guyana. He asked that I say what available democratic means were not exhausted before the few politically influenced squatters had to be removed as a last resort. But Mr. Nawbatt, they are not politically ‘a few’: what was done to them was considered wrong by many and the democratic process exists to attempt to prevent this kind of emotional escalation that is inimical to national development. However, when the PPP decided, for nonsensical reasons, that it will not have serious discourse with the political representatives of half of the electorate including these people, it simply eschewed this political leverage in its drive to establish political/ethnic dominance.
Mr. Nawbatt’s second concern pertains to my position that the PPP has the opportunity to appoint the two current African incumbents as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice and that by not doing so the regime ‘allows the entire population to see it for the ethnic political arrangement it actually is.’ Suggesting that the judiciary is ethnically biased, Mr. Nawbatt asked if the entire population, ‘did not learn a new lesson regarding the majority of 65… does he (Jeffrey) remember the litigation involving the No Confidence Motion passed in 2018 and which rulings helped the Coalition remain in office far beyond the constitutional requirements.’ Mr. Nawbatt, Coalition supporters could make similar unhelpful observations about the decisions on the electoral list, elections petitions, etc., but you missed the thrust of my argument, for ‘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!’
Even an international star who could have helped to facilitate some kind of oneness was prevented from doing so by politicians more concerned about establishing their hegemony! Mr. Nawbatt, the question is why is Guyana politically as it is and what can be done to erase, or severely limit, this democratic deficit. From where I stand, the difficulty results from the dearth of thoughtful democratically inclined leadership, but from your presentation, I must assume you to be a man of action who appears to believe that the necessary rectification will materialise by your hollering ‘One Guyana, Mr. Jeffrey ‘one Guyana!’