Feb 24, 2019
Yesterday Guyana observed its 49th anniversary as a republic. Forty-nine years is not a long time in the life of a nation; we are still a young republic. But, as we reflect on our journey since 1970, one must wonder whether we are worthy of the republican status we are asked to celebrate. If republicanism means rule by the people through their representatives and assumes that the rule of law is supreme, then it is difficult to conclude that we have been a model republic.
As we observe this anniversary, the nation, not for the first time, is gripped by high political tension that threatens to tear it apart. Our two major political parties, grounded in our two major ethnic groups, continue to hold the country at ransom. One party wraps itself in one interpretation of the constitution while the other one holds tightly to another interpretation.
For those of us who dare to dream that we as a nation have the capacity to overcome our inevitable challenges and forge a joint existence, that dream is fast becoming a nightmare. To borrow from Bro Bob Marley, I ask: how many more rivers do we have to cross? Or as Jimmy Cliff says, “I have got many rivers to cross/But I can’t seem to find my way over.”
Since the passage of the No-Confidence motion in December that essentially toppled the government, I have received scores of messages from African Guyanese supporters and non-supporters begging me to stop criticizing the government. Many of these persons have applauded my critique of the said government which they felt and still feel is an abject failure. But now they draw my attention to the bottom line—if the government falls, Black people dead. The message is clear– it is better to have a failing Black government in power than any Indian Guyanese government.
I always knew this sentiment was very strong in the African Guyanese community and I am told that Indian Guyanese feel the same way in relation to the PPP. As a student of ethnic politics, I understand its origins and logic. But one always hopes that it can be contained and that we can become a non-racial society.
When I was a young man growing up politically in the age of Marxist class analysis, the appeal to inter-class solidarity gave us a potent tool with which to wage war against this nasty race politics. It was a tool that was used to great effect by Walter Rodney and the WPA, and for a moment the dream threatened to become a reality.
Now, four decades later with the benefit of distance, we know that that was a passing moment—a glorious one that could not be sustained. In the final analysis, the pull of ethnic solidarity is too strong. We idealists often underestimate the extent to which perceptions about economics, culture and power are tied to ethnicity. We think we could erase those perceptions and substitute them with class ideology and multi-racialism. For me, the challenge is how to prevent ethnic solidarity from turning into ethnic domination—how to use class analysis to prevent ethnicity from turning into racism.
At the structural level, this can be accomplished by moving towards a power-sharing government—a genuine commitment to sharing both the benefits and burdens of governance. We always hope that impending crises would push our leaders in that direction. But, the threat of disintegration pushes them in the opposite direction. This is what we are currently witnessing. And the leaders’ hardline positions are fully supported by their followers.
Mr. Jagdeo and the PPP understandably hold very strongly to the constitution as the seek to push the Coalition out of power. They could argue that when faced with a No-Confidence Motion, they did not use delaying tactics, but instead, went to the polls and let the voters decide. They, of course, did so because they were confident they would have won the election. If they felt otherwise, I am sure they would have manipulated the constitution to delay the elections. Similarly, I am sure if the Coalition were confident it could win an election called in March, it would have gladly done so.
So here we are. If elections are called in March and the Coalition loses, it would most likely not accept the results. It would claim that because there was no house-to-house registration, many citizens were disenfranchised. If the elections are delayed and the PPP loses it would not accept the results. It would claim the entire process was rigged.
That, to my mind is where we are headed unless there is a political solution. History is not on our side in that regard. Whenever there has been any consensus, external forces have had to intervene. This may well be the only way out of the current mess. But the problem with those agreements is that they are temporary—they serve to avert the immediate crisis and do not have lasting effects.
More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org