Guyana exists politically in a state of virtual reality. In the film The Matrix and in George Orwell’s novel, 1984, such realities were creatively and brilliantly portrayed. The Government says to the Opposition, which has a majority in the National Assembly: You are obliged to pass my Budget but I’m not obliged to assent to your Bills. Or: I have my legislative agenda and sanity can only prevail if you facilitate it on a date convenient to me. And: The radio and cable licences have a wide ethnic and geographic spread. These are just three of many examples over the past year and they are enough to demonstrate the point.
In this virtual reality the Government is entitled to have its agenda attended to in a timely manner, is entitled to have its Budget passed, is entitled to have the Speaker rule in its favour and is entitled to control over the National Assembly.
The existence of a mindset dominated by the virtual reality has found expression by practical demonstration in recent actions. In vetoing the recent Opposition Bills passed in the National Assembly, the President said that one was unconstitutional and another required the consent of the Cabinet. But it is the function of the Courts, not the President, to determine the constitutionality of legislation. It is the function of the Speaker, not the President, to determine whether a Motion or a Bill requires Cabinet approval. In vetoing the Bills the President usurped the authority of the Courts and the Speaker. In this state of virtual reality the President can assume the right to speak on behalf of the Courts and of the Speaker.
The virtual reality in Guyana is based on a belief by the PPP/C that it won the last elections merely because the Constitution gives it a right to have the Presidency with a plurality, which carries with it a right to nominate a Cabinet. It is the belief in the existence of these rights and that they create a dominant governing authority that is one reason which has given rise to the virtual reality. It has led to a refusal to accept the actual reality that the Opposition has been given a majority in the National Assembly of which all Guyanese are aware.
So we have two realities in Guyana, the virtual reality and the actual reality, co-existing side by side. In The Matrix and 1984 the virtual realities were the dominant ones which had taken over the entire societies. Only tiny minorities were resisting. In Guyana a small but powerful minority which has control over the State is in the grip of this virtual reality, is motivated by it and operates on the basis as if it is the actual reality.
The virtual reality is also being sustained by some other myths. These are that in relation to the 2011 elections the PPP did not keep in close enough touch with its supporters, the PPP organization failed to mobilize and bring out its supporters, that its supporters have now realized their mistakes in voting for the AFC and staying home and that the next time around they will return en masse to the Party. The virtual reality was designed to feed these myths, to sustain them, to provide evidence of their truth in order, with more, to assist to rally the return of the supporters whenever elections are held again.
The creation of this virtual reality is a speculative plan because no one knows what is in the collective mind of PPP supporters who abandoned the Party at the last elections. There is no polling in Guyana. On May 10 the London Guardian reported on a poll commissioned by a pro Labour group which shows that the Labour Party will not win an outright majority at the next elections even though it is leading the Tories by 11 percent. It also found that the Labour leader, Ed Milliband is getting no traction in terms of popularity as opposed to Prime Minister David Cameron. This is Labour polling Labour.
Up to now Vishnu Bisram is shunned by some in the PPP leadership because his polls showed that I was the preferred candidate by Party supporters in 2011. With the persistence of this kind of attitude, well known by members in the leadership and which gained currency over the past decade, few if any would have the courage to own up, speak out and puncture this virtual reality which is a product of electoral defeat and a flawed strategy for electoral victory. Will it resolve the conditions in the sugar industry and restore the confidence of sugar workers in the future?