The “Elections Rigging – Democracy” Narrative is a Mask to hide the Mad Scramble for Guyana’s Patrimony
By Dr. David Hinds
The last fifteen months have brought home to me the peculiar harshness of Guyanese politics. To be misrepresented, demonized, and vilified without the right to reply has been heart-rending. The callousness, the racial disrespect and dishonour “make the blood run cold”, to paraphrase Bob Marley. What is this all about, I ask myself?
After careful thought, I think I now understand its origin and intent. They lie in this moment of reckoning for Guyana whereby we are in the face of a fundamental realignment of our politics, economics and society. And some of us, clinging to our perhaps outmoded political values, have refused to go along or be swept along. We did not give our endorsement to the text and subtext of a political tidal wave. Suffice to say, I have reflected a lot on our Guyana, our Caribbean and some things have become clearer to me.
I have been a keen observer of Guyanese politics for over four decades as student, teacher, activist, author and commentator. So, I can claim some institutional knowledge. I am quite comfortable with the road I partly chose to walk and was partly chosen for me. For whatever it still means. I consider myself a revolutionary on the left of the political spectrum—not a dogmatic ideologue but one committed to the ideals of that tradition. As my generation of revolutionaries prepares to cede the arena to a younger cadre, it is imperative that we engage in open self-critique of our tendency and the country’s politics at large because it is the right thing to do. We do so, however, at a defining historical moment characterized by the convergence of ethnopolitics, geopolitics and elite economic monopolization against the backdrop of newly found oil wealth. It is a moment that cries out for mature analysis and an equally mature politics.
The most painful experience of my political life has been to watch the relative ease with which a simplistic, minimalistic narrative of the moment has taken root in Guyana in recent months. I watch as unsuspecting, uncritical media brigades, as half of our ethnic masses, as gatekeepers of some of our key national institutions succumb to this carefully contrived narrative. The narrative I refer to is the one that arose out of the circumstances surrounding our most recent election. It is grounded in simplistic but believable notions of elections rigging and democracy. It seems harmless at first glance. But on closer examination, a critical mind cannot help but realize it is a mask for the transition to a full-blown regime of Ethnic Domination, Domestic Elite Appropriation of the national patrimony and Imperialistic heist of the remainder.
In effect, the narrative of Electoral Rigging and Democracy is being used to mask the dividing up of Guyana among the chosen few—The Mad Scramble for Guyana. If the 1964 election were the occasion for locating Guyana in one current of the Cold War divide without regard for the domestic consequences, the 2020 election was the occasion for determining which of our ethno-political deities would in the short to medium term manage the distribution of Guyana’s new patrimony both domestically and externally with equal disregard for domestic consequences.
But, how come so many fell for the bait? Political parties do what political parties do best—they sell a product that suits their singular objective of achieving power. But as the days and months pass, it has become clearer that the democracy narrative was a means to a dangerous end. Not that there weren’t issues of electoral chicanery—this has always been front and center in Guyana’s elections. Save for the 2006 poll, all election results since 1964 have been rejected by the losers.
For the first time, we had an audit of the votes in the boxes before a winner was declared. Whether one thinks that the Recount was unconstitutional or not, it did Guyana a favour –it exposed what a normal election in Guyana looks like behind a naked count of the ballots. The recount pulled the mask off the pretense of democratic elections in Guyana and exploded the myth of one-sided rigging. It showed us that elections in Guyana are a normative free-for-all affair whose outcomes are determined by which side is able to better manipulate the system. In the case of the 2020 election, the outcome was ultimately determined by which side better understood the new geopolitical rhythm and hitched its manipulation of the electoral process to that rhythm which provided the necessary cover and validation needed by the installed winner. The astonishing sum of US$110 spent to lobby and influence the USA government and other geo-economic and political interests was not an idle, accidental exercise.
GECOM, the international observers and stakeholders and the courts chose to ignore this smoking gun precisely because it exploded the myth behind the prevailing narrative. They kicked it down the road to an election petition. The intellectual authors knew very well that the installed loser did not have history on its side insofar as the perception of elections rigging is concerned—the perception of the master rigger has stuck to the main coalition partner even as the other warlord is steeped in the practice. The authors also knew that political inexperience and unimaginative management of power abounded in the coalition’s camp. Selling fiction as truth in such circumstances is a relatively easy undertaking.
I had hoped that those who fell for the contrived narrative would quickly see the light. But some propagandists of the myth apparently were so energised that they are prepared to work beyond the call of duty. Others have collapsed their reason for being into the myth to the point where they embody it. I suspect that some are embarrassed to the point of silence. Some have seen the Imperialistic Heist and the Domestic Elite Appropriation in motion but refuse to see the linkage to the myth they supported in 2020. And many are simply happy that the tide of history has given current to their communal wishes. But as Brother Bob Marley prophesied , “in the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty.” In the meantime, I must butcher Martin Carter’s famous refrain–Many are involved, but all of us are consumed.