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This article is intended to clarify Mr. Clement Rohee’s false interpretation (SN: 18/01/2023) of my position on the so-called fight for democracy during the 2020 national and regional elections. His penchant for invective founded upon similar misconceptions also requires some attention.
Mr. Rohee claimed that on one of Dr. David Hinds’ recent Pol 101 programmes, ‘David Hinds supported Henry Jeffrey’s view that all those who supported and fought for free and fair elections between March and August 2020 helped legitimize the undemocratic PPP/C. They argued that the ‘Defenders of Democracy’ mistakenly helped ‘install’ an illegitimate government. The duo was supportive of continuing with bad governance practiced by the APNU+AFC and favoured the reinstatement of the corrupt cabal as well as their abuse of power for their personal enrichment.’ As a starter, let me say the behaviour of the Coalition government leaves a lot to be desired but only someone totally dislocated could possibly deny that the degree of bad governance and abuse of power under it pales in comparison to what is now taking place.
During the 2020 elections standoff I argued that in keeping with international best practices the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) should ‘Detect and document all attempted cases of voter fraud, … Determine, if at all possible before the finalization of counts and the announcement of election results, if the extent of any detected fraud regarding voting is sufficient to have a possible effect on the results of any election’ (http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/vo/vog/vog05/vog05b/mobile_browsing/onePag).
The commission having requested and received substantial verification of fraudulent activities, which the chairperson admitted were worrying, and notwithstanding the awesome powers given to by section 22 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act (ELA), found it sensible to announce that GECOM did not have the competence to determine if the extent of any detected fraud was sufficient to have a possible effect on the results of any election before the finalisation of counts and the announcement of election results.
It was at this point that I argued that GECOM has and should exercise the authority to determine if detected fraud is sufficient to annul the elections and that if it does annul the elections it should seek to put in place and interim government, possibly under the Chancellor of the Judiciary, to proceed to new elections as soon as possible.
However, GECOM declared the elections for the PPP/C and recommended that the concerned parties resort to an election petition. As was to be expected, three years on, as the regime runs amok, the elections petition process is yet to be completed. Indeed, the Chief Justice (ag) later stated in the election petition brought by Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick that ‘as part of its core function, pursuant to Articles 62 and 162 of the Constitution GECOM had an obligation to complete the election process and therefore had a concomitant obligation, duty and responsibility to address such difficulties, to achieve this.’
It is not surprising, therefore, that although the regime claimed to have won over 50% of the votes at the 2020 elections according to a 2022 poll conducted for the International Republican Institute, only 22% of respondents said ‘definitely yes’ when asked if the declared official election results reflect the will of the people. It is no wonder too that a legitimate claim can be made that regime change was the order of the day and that the current regime was ‘installed’.
This was my position during the 2020 elections quarrel, it still is today and is the position I sought to articulate on Dr. David Hinds’ Pol 101 programme. If I said that those who struggle for democracy were mistaken, I was attempting to be holistic, for in my view motives ranged from the well-intentioned to the downright fraudulent!
Mr. Rohee began his letter trying to disguise the autocratic and usual under-hand behaviour of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). He told us that some Guyanese ‘hold the view that it is a waste of time to listen to Glen Lall, David Hinds, Kidackie Amsterdam, Sherod Duncan or Henry Jeffrey’ but proceeded to draw to their attention that although ‘One should listen to what both government or opposition spokespersons have to say, … the freedom to agree or disagree is an inalienable right.’
It is his prerogative to dismiss the above commentators, but a real democrat would also have explained that a political party is considered as representing only one part of the electorate and that its manifesto is taken as reflecting the wish of that part of the population. It is incumbent upon the government, which should represent the entire country, to negotiate with other parties to try and reach a programmatic consensus that best reflects the interest of all Guyanese. It is in this context that party paramountcy can be considered objectionable. If, after an honest effort is made, consensus is out of reach, then ‘the freedom to agree and disagree’ legitimately comes into play.
But this is the nature of contemporary autocracies: their democratic statements and relationships are façades intended to camouflage domineering intentions. The high-handed behaviour of the PPP has become legendary: as we have heard recently in the discourse about superior majority, it views negotiations and compromise as humbugs rather than the essential stuff of liberal democratic political relations. Indeed, only last week I had to draw attention to its bulldozing through parliament in a couple of hours the recent Petroleum Bill, ignoring some 31 proposed amendments coming from the official opposition!
Another important difference between democracy and modern-day autocracy is that the latter underplays the importance of the political virtues of democracy that autocracy cannot even pretend to provide while emphasizing the material needs of the population with which autocracy can better cope. Mr. Rohee claimed that apart from the lumpen element, young people ‘are more concerned about jobs, acquiring a house lot, to be professionally qualified, to pursue their interest in agriculture, uplifting their general welfare as well as their public safety and security.… [T]hey are not to be easily influenced and misled by empty rhetoric and brow-beating that brings them nothing. However, should the views and opinions of opposition elements coincide with those of the ruling party and government … changes are likely to occur in their political outlook and in pursuit of their economic interest.’
Not only are these views squarely in the autocratic mold but the previous sentence nicely frames an aspect of the PPP’s drive to ethnic/political dominance. Rohee needed to only look to himself to realise that young people have always been concerned about their economic and professional future and although we do live in a more materialistic world, they are still very much concerned with issues of freedom, democracy, discrimination, etc. They have not in the past been easily misled by the empty rhetoric of the slave, colonial and other would-be masters: the PPP’s recent attempt to brow-beat Africans youths to gain their votes during the local government elections should be a master lesson.
Indeed, contrary to Rohee, what recent events also indicate is that usually in most social conflict, it is those he referred to as the ‘lumpen’ who are most prone to dysfunctional materialism. And it is into this relatively poor socio/economic condition that the PPP is trying to drive Africans so that, as Rohee said, their views will coincide with it and changes will take place in the political outlook of Africans as they pursue ‘their economic interest’. This will of course enhance the PPP’s drive towards ethnic/political dominance!