Guyana is still digesting the WPA’s Buxton meeting of March 9, where Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton was a featured speaker. He agrees with Tacuma Ogunseye’s assessment of the situation in Guyana and his “solution”, even though he averred he wouldn’t have used the exact words.
Tacuma’s assessment was that the PPP was a “dictatorial” regime targeting African Guyanese for execution and for economic marginalisation. Solution wise, Tacuma rejected democratic electoral politics: “We cannot wait on elections cycle to resolve this matter”. Instead, he revealed, “…for the WPA, in this present campaign, we have some clear objectives. The first objective is to get the African team in a state of battle readiness…the Afro-Guyanese Police and soldiers… would stand with Afro-Guyanese in resisting mainly Indo-Guyanese supporting the PPP/C.” He left no doubt about what was expected of the Armed Forces (“with guns in their hands”) towards the Indo-Guyanese PPP supporters: like past Home Affairs Minister Gajraj, they were big targets and difficult to miss.
What Tacuma was describing was the classic “Indian Guyanese Ethnic Security Dilemma” that we had described as far back as the 1990s. While the Indian-supported PPP might be able to achieve political office because of their votes in a democratic polity, they could never be secure in office, since real power lies in the African-dominated Security Forces. But the WPA is now rejecting democratic politics to achieve office, even though the classic conditions of the “African Ethnic Security Dilemma” that had been used by Burnham to justify using non-democratic means was no longer present: a built-in Indian majority stymieing PNC’s electoral chances. As was confirmed by the 2012 census, the Indian population had slid from 50+ percent in 1980 to below 40%, and continues to decrease. Using a coalition strategy, the PNC was able to win office politically in 2015.
But even with the kindest interpretation of the WPA’s strategy – that they meant the armed forces wouldn’t shoot African Guyanese using “civil disobedience” – wouldn’t they simply be repeating Hoyte’s post-1998 “slow fyaah; mo’ fyaah” strategy?? Hoyte also had invoked the Armed Forces “kith and kin” loyalty imperative. But as occurred in several PNC protests then, wouldn’t the certainty of the mob-psychology of crowds breaking loose be an ever-present danger?? Wasn’t the “peaceful” Mon Repos protest of 2022 an echo of the July, 2002 PNC march that also started at Golden Grove and ended with the storming of the Office of the President? Two were killed and ten wounded – all from Linden and the ECD villages being presently mobilised.
How exactly would the plan for the Armed Forces to “stand with Afro-Guyanese in resisting mainly Indo-Guyanese supporting the PPP/C” work? Does the WPA consider Indian Guyanese “resisting” their “civil disobedience” campaign by merely going about their lives? As, for instance, on Jan 12, 1998 in the PNC’s first iteration – or at West Coast Berbice and Mon Repos in the present, when they were subjected to condign beatings and robberies? Do they expect Caricom to once again broker a settlement with the PPP that would truncate their term of office and make further power-sharing concessions? And the Americans, who just signalled their concerns about their strategic economic interests here, to simply nod benignly?
Frankly, as I had pointed out after the PNC attempted to seize power in the 2020 elections by using a state institution (GECOM) that was also staffed overwhelmingly by “kith and kin” African Guyanese, David Granger was “Gambling for Resurrection”. In this strategy, taken from International Relations, leaders who see defeat staring them in the face of competition or conflict take high-risk actions that would be considered “irrational” in normal circumstances, because the high costs of defeat would outweigh the low probability of victory. It was once succinctly stated by Forbes Burnham in our vernacular: “Back to back, belly to belly. Ah doan give a damn, Ah done dead a’ready”! Ironically, the WPA is once again following Burnham’s lead.
Unfortunately, in our ethnically divided polity, the strategy can lead to widespread death and destruction, as we saw in the Buxton-based post-2002 tragedy. Is it worth it? I believe most Guyanese – including African Guyanese – think not.