To the sounds of Buju Banton and the echoes of the Wismar and Sun Chapman massacres, Guyana celebrates it 53rdIndependence Anniversary. Our political and economic future are as uncertain as they were 53 years ago. Guyana’s emergence from authoritarian rule in 1992 was not only a major landmark in its post-Independence history. The promises at the time were of “the dawn of a new era” and of “winner does not take all” politics. in the midst of economic reforms that promised a better life and the emergence of this newspaper that presaged freedom of expression, anticipation was high. After 27 years, half of our life as an Independent nation, hopes have been dashed. Our people have been kept in thrall to the logic of ethno-politics. No one now believes that either the APNU+AFC coalition or the PPP/C, by themselves, whichever is returned to office, has any intention of allowing this nation to unshackle the chains of domination politics.
Guyana’s political scene is thankfully uncomplicated by the ideological and political divisions sweeping many countries today, causing uncertainty and concern. But we do not live on an island and international developments do influence our views. This newspaper in its editorial yesterday high–lightedthe drift to “Europe’s illiberal future” in its editorial. The USA has already gone that way under Trump, who equated neo-fascists with anti-fascists, saying that there are good people on both sides. Australia’s right wing government has been unexpectedly returned to office. Boris Johnson, Trump’s buddy in the UK, Boris Johnson, may win the leadership of the Conservative Party and become Prime Minister. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, a neo-fascist outfit, is expected to win the UK-European Union elections. While these developments do not directly affect us, we cannot wholly eliminate potentially negative influences. They can lead todevelopments here by encouraging a hard line against the compromises that may be necessary to effect changes.
The strengthening of right wing ideology is not confined to Europe. The USA and Australia are referred to above. Duterte in the Phillipines has strengthened his position in Senate elections. Developments in India have been troubling. Like in Australia, the BJP of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India exceeded expectations in the recent elections despite disastrous economic policies resulting mainly the failure to improve the economy for the poor and reduce unemployment, which was one of his main promises. Half of India’s population is under 25 and two-thirds are under 35. It means that India’s youth have been seduced by BJP’s policies of hate against Muslims, lower castes, the ‘elites’ and the BJP’s subversion of the judiciary, the free press, the elections commission and other institutions. India has much influence in Guyana because of religious and cultural factors and Guyana has traditionally had close relations with India. Hopefully, BJP’s strong promotion of Hindu “values” do not influence Guyanese into ideas that are resistant to the forms of unity that are necessary for Guyana to move forward.
Guyana is therefore in an international milieu that may not conducive to promoting a political solution. International influence in Guyana may also be another factor. The perception is that the international community leans in favour of the APNU+AFC coalition and against the PPP/C. This could potentially encourage the APNU+AFC coalition, as it has done so far, to resist and calls for a political solution. However, whatever the external factors, domestic politics will be the most influential. And since the political parties are refusing to address the most fundamental issue that affects the development of Guyana, it is the electorate that must make the choice.
At the general and regional elections which will be held sometime between the next few weeks and August next, depending of the decision of the CCJ, the issue of a political solution by way of a new governance system, must be placedfront and centre of the election campaign. There is absolutely no doubt that a majority of Guyanese would support such a system because it would eliminate domination, ensure ethnic security, equitable distribution of resources and reduce much tension in the society. However, the obstacle to full support of such a project is the grip of ethno-political sentiments. Many electors would want their party to have its full strength to achieve the best advantages in a negotiation which will eventually take place. Make no mistake, each party will want to secure advantages or, at least, will want to ensure that the other side does not get an advantage.
If the electorate is presented with the option of a political solution, it would be necessary for whoever is presenting that option to find ways to encourage a sufficient degree of support to ensure that its voice is decisive enough. The PPP/C failed to obtain an absolute majority in two successive elections – in 2011 and 2015. The PNC-APNU has never obtained more than 41 percent of the vote. Its alliance partner, the AFC, which obtained 10 percent in 2011 and perhaps brought just about that to the APNU+AFC coalition in 2015, obtained 4 percent at the local government elections last year.Therefore, the opening exists for whoever is presenting the option to squeeze through with enough strength to decisively influence events.