‘Orin Boston and the growing autocracy’
What happened to Mr. Orin Boston must be placed squarely upon a politically orientated, disjointed police management system. When this is coupled to the history of the current regime, it is not surprising that this kind of extrajudicial killing reeks of political motivation. Whether directly, by way of the Becket Syndrome (SN: 01/08/2012), criminality, or otherwise, the political atmosphere in which the Guyana Police Force exists allows all manner of renegade and /or opportunist elements to believe they have carte blanche to act with impunity, particularly towards those outside the ruling political hierarchy. Talk about reviewing the standard operational procedures (SOP) is intended to make the problem technical rather than political: routine rather than substantive. SOP are intended to ensure that tasks are done as desired. How could it be that a 180 year old important state organisation still has SOP which allowed the Boston atrocity if this kind of behaviour is not desired by the state!
In 2014, I argued that the PPP/C government was a ‘Democracy without political virtue.’ The eminent political theorist Samuel Huntington claimed that, ‘Elections, open, free and fair, are the essence of democracy, the inescapable sine qua non, but that governments produced by elections may be inefficient, corrupt, shortsighted, irresponsible, dominated by special interests, and incapable of adopting policies demanded by the public good. … These qualities make such governments undesirable but they do not make them undemocratic’ (SN: 30/04/ 2014). On this definition, democratic governments are not necessarily good: after all Adolph Hitler’s Nazi party came to government by way of elections. What it does say is that democracy is one public virtue, but not the only one: effective citizen control over policies, responsible government, honesty and openness in politics, informed and rational deliberation, equal participation and power are some of the other social virtues to which citizens may aspire.
When in ‘How to rig an election’ Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klass stated that ‘The greatest political paradox of our time is (that) there are more elections than ever before, and yet the world is becoming less democratic’ (Yale University Press, 2018), they were making the commonplace mistake of equating an electoral democracy with a liberal democracy that contains the public virtues mentioned above. Since democracy is considered a public good, this apparent paradox has allowed all manner of autocrats to claim democratic credentials by holding fraudulent elections. In its 2021 report, V-Dem stated that, ‘Electoral autocracy remains the most common regime type that together with closed autocracies they number 87 states, home to 68% of the world population.’
According to Brookings, ‘At the heart of the new era of geopolitical competition is a struggle over the role and influence of democracy in the international order. … Competition between great powers is over nothing less than the future democratic character of the international system.’ A few weeks ago this column stated that the doctrine of President Joe Biden ‘focuses the United States on a truly grand strategy of fortifying the democratic world against the most serious set of threats it has confronted in generations’ (Foreign Affairs, June 2021). Briefly, the United States must deal with the threat from authoritarian powers that want to replace ‘the existing international system because its foundational liberal principles are antithetical to their illiberal domestic practices.’ (‘The Emerging Biden Doctrine’)
Since both democracy and autocracy are progressive and regressive processes it is important that as far as possible there is a clear distinction between the two and an outline of a pathway that leads from one to the other. As I suggested last week, V-Dem is the first scientific effort to seek to classify political regimes along this line. For example, in its 2021 report, Guyana declined from being an electoral democracy in 2020 to being an electoral democracy veering towards an electoral autocracy. Therefore, the police behaviour towards the Boston and other families should not be surprising if only because such is the nature of autocratic regimes.
The primary goal of an autocratic regime is to acquire and maintain state authority, and every perceived step of the PPP/C regime in this direction needs to be vigorously publicly identified and challenged nationally and internationally. Autocratic regimes usually survive by, in various ways, weakening the opposition, making unilateral undemocratic electoral arrangements to gain political advantage, hoodwinking the international community, etc. The illegal voting of the Guyana diaspora by way of a bloated electoral list, the PPP/C’s unilateral establishment of a regional police arrangement, its meddling in the registration of births and deaths, attempts to cultivate cross border relations with the political leadership of Suriname, etc., must be seriously monitored and if necessary exposed.
Last Tuesday, in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, President Biden claimed that ‘The authoritarians of the world may seek to proclaim the end of the age of democracy, but they’re wrong. The truth is: the democratic world is everywhere. … And while no democracy is perfect, … democracy remains the best tool we have to unleash our full human potential.’ True and while internally the President will have to contend with his own counterfeit democrats: if liberal democracy is to win the day internationally and relatedly the United States needs to ensure that those who talk the talk immediately walk the walk!