During one of his parliamentary budget presentations, then minister responsible for local government, Harripersaud Nokta, gave a list of what the PPP/C intended to accomplish in the sector over the coming year. A shout came from the opposition side: ‘what is your vision for the sector?’ Taking a few seconds to consider the question the minister retorted, ‘it’s in my head’ and the entire parliament roared with laughter. This event came to mind as I was considering President David Granger’s 10-point list of what he and his party intend to accomplish, should they win the 2020 elections, over what he designated a coming ‘decade of development.’
Last week, I argued that a vision is an important motivational and inspirational tool and at the launch of his party’s elections campaign a few days after presenting his 10 points plan, the president referred to himself as a ‘see far man’ and I take it that by this he intended to present himself as a visionary. In politics, one of the advantages of a good visionary presentation is that it could cloak dissatisfaction with present conditions and given the paltry level of the government’s actual accomplishments, I sympathize with the president wanting to so present himself. However, if that was his intention, he fell well short of his mark: a simple taxonomy of future intentions attached to isolate exaltations could hardly be considered visionary and inspiring. Over the decades, Guyana has been plagued with all kinds of maladies and now it has come upon great opportunities, but what kind of society the president envisages would result from amalgamating these with his proposed interventions remains largely in his head!
One did not have to agree with their conceptualizations, but given a similar context – the opening of the 50th anniversary of the republic, the existential climate threat and the discovery of that elusive Eldorado – can you imagine Forbes Burnham or Cheddi Jagan delivering upon such a grandiose topic as a ‘decade of development.’ I can just imagine the more erudite Burnham and the internationalist Jagan calling upon the Guyanese people to play their part in overcoming the climate threat by building a society that stays within their globally negotiated and allocated carbon footprint notwithstanding their fossil fuel fortune. And/or highlighting the fact that over the past 50 years our fractured political system has not served us well, is largely responsible for our poor condition and of necessity must be rectified to clear a pathway to Guyana becoming a nation rather than remaining a gathering of peoples.
Some would say that the era of such soaring rhetoric is over and President Donald Trump’s Tweets might make it appear so, but not 5 years ago we were lauding President Barack Obama for just such presentations. In any case, outside of their morbid fear of a possible PPP/C government, what else has this regime accomplished to inspire its supporters not to succumb to the antisocial vicissitudes of materialism and to visualise and work towards a more rewarding tomorrow? What else does it have to give them hope? It has not been effective in the management of the more important elements of this society: sugar, oil, prosecution of criminal and corrupt officials, etc. It has made no impact upon poverty or inequality; criminality is still too pervasive with no end in sight; the regime now fits nicely into the perception of corruption frame of reference, etc. Its most substantial claim to fame, without accepting its contribution to those events, is that it has brought peace and politically motivated killings have ceased!
On the other hand, how could any African Guyanese take Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo seriously when at last Sunday’s launch of the PPP’s 2020 election campaign he claimed that the PPP ‘is the natural home for Afro-Guyanese?’ Was it not the PPP/C that rejected the African-elected leadership request for shared governance and sought every opportunity to suppress it until some elusive trust was established? The PPP/C’s entire notion of inclusive governance rests upon its isolating and working with individual Africans under its essentially Indian leadership and constituency. A similar approach now exists in the PNCR in relation to Indians and the experience of even the more formally organised AFC has clearly demonstrated that this approach has not worked in the past and will not now contribute to seriously mitigating ethnic alienation.
Since the APNU+AFC government does not have sufficient concrete accomplishments to inspire its supporters it must continue in the illiberal direction it initiated in relation to the December 2018 no-confidence vote that brought it down. Thus, “Granger, meanwhile, mentioned that one of the plans the governing coalition has is constitutional reform, which, according to him, will ensure ‘that nonsense they tried to do to us over the last 12 months doesn’t happen again. …We are a constitutional government and everything we have done over the last 12 months was in accordance with the law and he Constitution’” (SN: 04/01/2020).
This column has repeatedly argued that the Granger government is not illegal or unconstitutional: it finds legal coverage under the order made by the Caribbean Court of Justice. That said, since no one would have known who cast the deciding vote, a secret ballot would have protected the MP in question and also prevented much of the ethnic tension that arose after the vote. However, the sentiment to which Mr. Granger is pandering is not the liberal idea of maintaining the vote and protecting the MP from likely harm arising from the use of his democratic right as a representative, but the illiberal one of all together getting rid of no-confidence voting!
At its campaign launch in Kitty last week, the PPP/C stated that it will not give support to efforts to remove the no-confidence vote, and it is tempting to believe that the president is promising what he will not be able to deliver since he would need the support of the PPP/C to make the necessary constitutional changes. But the PPP/C felt it necessary to resort to the illiberal prorogation of parliament to avoid a similar no-confidence motion and remember how easily both parties found common ground on preventing MPs from crossing the floor and how this government has piggy-backed on this rule to claim that the no-confidence vote was invalid! It appears easy for the parties to find accommodation when its suits their own interests and the fact that a party can lose government by a small margin, which then leads to intolerable ethnic exclusion means I will not put much faith in the PPP/C’s commitment not to help constitutionally remove the co-confidence motion.
If the PNCR had fulfilled the promise to reform the constitution and introduce some kind of shared governance regime, the no-confidence motion would most likely not have been necessary and the regime’s present position would not have been as precarious. But by refusing to do so, it has now dragged its supporters down to a very dark and slippery place.