The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Joe Harmon, has lamented the neglect by the Caricom Secretariat and its Chairman, Prime Minister Keith Rowley, of acknowledging his letters requesting their mediation of the current stalemate between the Government and Opposition. The stalemate has arisen because the Opposition Leader’s request of President Ali for a meeting to discuss matters of state has been rejected by President Ali, who demands recognition of the Government as a condition for the meeting.
In the past President Jagdeo had met Opposition Leaders Desmond Hoyte in 2001 and Robert Corbin in 2006 even though they had alleged that those elections were fraudulent and had filed election petitions challenging the results. They had both declared that their non-recognition of the PPP/C governments. The boycotting of the Parliament was a regular feature of those years, at one time for 18 months. Disruption of the National Assembly, though less intense, was continuous. On each occasion, as well as 1998, agreements were arrived at between the Government and Opposition. While they did not succeed in any permanent political solution, at least the political parties retained the capacity to reach across the divide.
What is different this time around? Why is the PPP/C Government not reaching out or not responding to the Opposition’s invitation? And why is Caricom ignoring the Opposition Leader? I answer from what is in the public domain. I have no other information and do not speak for the Government.
Caricom is probably thoroughly disgusted at the behaviour of APNU+AFC. It violated the Constitution by the Cabinet refusing to resign after the no confidence motion in December 2018. It again violated the Constitution by failing to hold elections within the three-month period. It refused to recognize its caretaker status. It violated a commitment to have a Caricom recount of the votes of the March 2020 elections by legally challenging the recount agreement it had signed. It made a mockery of the recount by frivously challenging the validity of over 100,000 votes. The Chief Election Officer repeatedly refused to comply with the directions of the Chairman of the Elections Commission to certify the results of the recount. Ethnic violence was fomented in West Coast Berbice. The Opposition is on a course to make the Parliament so unruly that it can barely carry out its business. Above all, Caricom, though understandably reluctant, based on its recent experiences, will not intervene in the business of a member State unless invited by both parties as in the case of the Herdmanston Accord of 1998, signed by Desmond Hoyte and Janet Jagan to end the political crisis at that time.
I took the opportunity a few weeks ago to write about the future of the PNC. The foundation to that future is to exorcise the rigging of elections from its DNA. After the last and worst election rigging of elections in 1985 under then President Hoyte, which conceded to the PPP a mere 8 seats in the National Assembly, Desmond Hoyte, stoutly opposed by Hamilton Green and others, was dragged screaming and kicking to free and fair elections in 1992. However, that election rigging strand remained embedded in the PNC’s DNA for another 28 long years, only to surface again as soon as the opportunity arose in 2020 to torment and traumatize the nation once again.
It is against this background and that of daily exposures of its corrupt mismanagement, that APNU+AFC should be encouraged to climb down from its high horse, eschew its arrogance and cease the demonization of the PPP/C Government as racist, and election riggers. It needs a credible agenda for discourse, imbued with creativity and away from bitterness and hostility. If the plucking out African names when the Government is going after wrongdoing by both Indian and African Guyanese, or disciplining a few public servants, inevitably African because the public service is over 90 percent African Guyanese, when APNU+AFC itself had an all-African senior public service, is racist, then APNU+AFC is not going to get very far with any sort of political discourse, even if agreed to. Demanding a meeting with the PPP Government to discuss its alleged misdeeds forming a core portion of its agenda will go nowhere.
APNU+AFC is facing a completely new situation in Guyana since 2015. Guyana has started to extract 9 billion barrels of oil. Another 9 billion at least are waiting to be discovered. With a population of 750,000 people, Guyana will be transformed to first world status. Guyanese will live in conditions undreamt of hitherto. There will be more than enough to go around and everyone will focus on tapping into the huge resources, to improve the lives of themselves and their families. Politics, as we know it, cannot remain unaffected by these developments. The old political shibboleths will be transformed by the new economic situation. The old fault lines will disappear. The edges of the the political struggle for ethnic dominance will be blunted. While current political issues need to be addressed, the dominance of accusatory postures will not secure a hearing. And those who do not recognize the approaching realities, and fail to prepare for them, will not be able to sustain relevance.