ravi dev guyana times 

 In my last two articles, I examined the ideas the late Indian political leader Deen Dayal Upadhayaya put forward towards creating a really independent nation in a society that had been colonised for a thousand years. As I followed the hearings of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into “land titling issues”, I could only think of how far away we are from being a “nation” by Upadhayaya’s definition, much less an “independent” one: “When a group of persons live with a goal, an ideal, a mission, and look upon a particular piece of land as motherland, this group constitutes a Nation.”
It had been conceded at independence, we had inherited a “state”, but not a “nation”. We were a “land of six peoples” that had been formed, not out of some hoary past, like India, but thrown together by the Dutch and then the British with just one aim – to provide the cheapest labour possible to extract the wealth of Guyana for the “mother country”. Unfortunately, the Europeans were the worse caricature of the “evil stepmother” when it came to the needs of her “children”.
But one would have hoped that, after fifty years of independence, we would have progressed a bit further than what was exhibited at the CoI towards becoming a nation, where one group was pitted against others in a most divisive manner. Why is this so? Deen Dayal suggested, as I wrote last week, that one reason was because we attempted to apply various foreign “isms” with their operational institutions without first having a clear understanding of the nature of our society. Fundamentally, because of our history, Guyana was a classic “plural society”, as described by the eminent Jamaican anthropologist MG Smith. Our challenge in all matters is to deal with our immanent diversities.
Take the structure of the state and its governance institution we had been given by the British, along with the ideology of Liberalism to govern it. Sir Arthur Lewis, the West Indian Nobel prize winner in economics, had in 1964 addressed the needs of plural societies after his experience in West Africa. Very pithly, he said this could be summarised as “Federalism” and “coalitions”. His advice, however, was ignored, even though he was made Chancellor of UG in 1965 and helped draft the PNC’s 1972-1976 Five Year Development Plan. The plan failed as much for not addressing the ethnic divisions in the country as for anything else: the peoples did not feel they were all on a common mission.
06f7c9_0e79faaa8300427a951d5b47b377726dBecause of the fortuitous concentration of the several larger ethnic groups in Guyana — Indian, African and Indigenous Guyanese — in separate parts of the country, a federal structure of the state, as suggested by Lewis, would have ensured that every ethnic group, for instance, had some real share of power in the part of the country they predominated. Lewis’s second suggestion on “governance” – coalitions at the centre – would have had all groups included in the decision making of the country, and so feel part of a common endeavour.
The post-Independence PNC  quickly jettisoned the ideology of liberalism for another foreign “ism” –  “socialism” – but augmented all the state institutions the British had used to govern the polyglot society with an iron fist – a tightly controlled centralised bureaucracy, an armed police force to which was now added an army from the disbanded “Volunteer Force”, militia, national service and other militarised bodies.
Throughout their reign, the British had implemented a policy of “divide and rule” through a policy of differential recruitment into the armed forces. Rather than reversing this policy, as had been recommended by an International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) as part of the independence package, the PNC government increased the size of the armed forces and the proportion of African Guyanese, who just happened to be their supporters. Not surprisingly, other groups were alienated from these state institutions as they were from the central government, and never conferred the legitimacy necessary for their integrative functioning and the country’s progress.
Unless we deal with the realities of our society, we will be pulling each other down for the foreseeable future, like crabs in a barrel, as exhibited at the land CoI.