By Ryhaan Shah
Each New Year comes in with the promise of renewed hope that our country would finally turn the corner and become progressive, peaceful and prosperous. But the best predictor of future events is the past, and even as the New Year begins, the performance of the Granger Government dashes all hope of betterment. There will be no promised good life, and most especially not for Indian Guyanese communities.
Will the promised severance payments to the 4,000 retrenched sugar workers materialize? Going again from past behaviour, wherein Granger has had no problem with breaking every promise made, there might well be no such payments forthcoming in January.
It is not that we do not all know what ails Guyana. However, there continues to be no political will to fix it, and this state of affairs of a divided country leaves us vulnerable to manipulation from external forces, who succeed in pursuing their own interests by favouring one side over the other.
The US used this strategy for near on three decades during their Cold War against the Soviet Union. They allowed the dictatorship of Forbes Burnham to flourish despite the wreckage and destruction it caused, and it appears that Guyana will once again be held hostage to international forces working against our country’s better interests.
The deep racial divide that led to that situation in the 1960s has not yet been confronted, and bridged through a constitutionally inclusive political arrangement that would allay the fears and suspicions of the two major race camps, and bring about governance that would put country above partisan politics.
The continued race imbroglio favours the sell-out of our country, and the PNC has had no compunction about gaining political power through such a betrayal. And with both the PPP and PNC stuck in their encampments, and displaying none of the political maturity that would instil the principled behaviour of statesmanlike conduct, Guyana proceeds with the tit-for-tat politicking that gets us nowhere.
Third parties have failed to make significant breakthroughs on the strongholds of either party’s support base, and the unmitigated disaster that is the AFC does not bode well for any such efforts in the near future. That they fall apart points up the shallowness of their “all awe is one” jingoism, which is not derived from any honest consideration and serious analysis of the ethnic divide.
The rhetoric is not much different from the “oneness” campaigns the two major parties promote, even though the ethnic violence that arises from the social and political tensions should indicate that mere wishful thinking could not ever be a solution.
But with the PNC’s current hold on power and the PPP smelling victory in 2020 because of the many faux pas, corruptions and incompetence of the PNC Administration, neither camp has any incentive to change direction.
They can both count on the unswerving loyalty of their support base, no matter how badly they govern. That’s the reality; and while the PPP can rely on its traditional supporters, the party will need to win over professional and urban Indian and African Guyanese to ensure a winning edge.
As much as the Granger Government is widely unpopular, no one wants an unchanged PPP Government back in office.
Dr Vishnu Bisram has suggested for the party a Civic component that would include Ralph Ramkarran, Christopher Ram and Joe Singh. This would demonstrate that the PPP has the maturity to accept constructive criticism, that it would put country first, and that it understands the importance of gaining the confidence of the international community.
Guyana is not independent from the influence of the world’s more powerful nations. The PPP’s “feral blast” did it no favours in diplomatic circles, and the party must rebuild its relationship with the Western powers if it wants to have a real chance at governance again. A PPP that understands the importance of such diplomacy could undercut whatever favourable image the PNC currently enjoys in this quarter.
Their 23 years in government were marred by PNC street violence and the Buxton-centred terrorism aimed at the party’s Indian Guyanese support. The relative calm of the PNC Administration does win it points, no matter the reality that Indian Guyanese dare not undertake any large-scale protests, since the armed forces continue to be in the hands of the PNC’s “kith and kin”.
All the more reason for the PPP to institute real reforms, which would not only change the face of the party, but would affirm a committed direction of inclusivity in governance.
We can hope that the New Year would mark a start in this direction.