…and Turkish failed coup

The “Turkish coup” of 2016 is the coup that never was. We woke up last Friday and heard about the attempt to take over the country. Three days later, it was over with the Government still firmly in power and 6000 persons, mainly from the Army, rounded up. What gives? Was it a case of a few bungling Inspector Cousteau types who couldn’t get their act together? Or was there more than met the eye? Your Eyewitness is interested. Not least of all because Turkey represents one possible fate of those colonial countries that attempted to graft Liberal politics over an older culture built on contrary premises.

Most of us have forgotten that Turkey was the centre of the Muslim world for centuries and seat of the Islamic “Ottoman Empire”. At its height, it stretched from Europe to India and was as powerful as the Austro-Hungarian Empire that ran things in Europe for the longest while. But by the turn of the 20th century, it had run out of steam and was dubbed “the sick man of Europe”. The end of WWI in 1918 saw it humiliated with even pipsqueak countries like Serbia nibbling off its territory.

One army officer, Kemal Attaturk decided to make a bold move in 1923: he seized control of the State and decided to transform the State into a “modern” one built on Western Liberal principles. Religion –- in this case Islam – would be banned from the public sphere, women would be educated, individual rights would be emphasised and elections would chose leaders – eventually. He even mandated the wearing of European clothing. In the process, Kemal and his supporters gave a whole new meaning to the term “Young Turks” – go-getters who would storm the bastions of power to change the status quo.

Fast forward to the 1960s. Turkey was transformed all right – but not in the way Attaturk had envisaged. While the “Westernised” citizens had many of the forms of political life as in Europe, the promised prosperity hadn’t been delivered. And it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when some started questioning whether, in fact, the removal of Islam in Turkey from the public sphere and identity was necessary.

The election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 1999 to power brought the varying impulses to a head. While he accepted the democratic forms he was a religiously inclined individuals who accepted the return of Islam back as the core of Turkish identity. And that’s what this coup is all about and why it is important to us in Guyana, where there are unresolved questions of the place of identity in politics and the public sphere.

What, in fact, are the limits to forcing an identity on a people?

…and the AFC

Over in Guyana, there was another (hopefully unconnected?) articulation on identity. Through Executive Member and Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, we learnt that the AFC had held an all-day confab with its elected officials from both the local and national levels and decided they had to hold on to their identity. They had been in coalition for a year and a half with APNU and the question had long been noted – from inside and outside.

Most folks had concluded the pre-coalition prediction of party leader Khemraj Ramjattan – that the AFC would be “dead meat” if it coalesce with APNU – had come to pass.

But the question now on the table is: “What exactly IS the identity of the AFC?” When it first launched back in 2005 with one leader each from the PPP, PNC and WPA, it insisted it would be a “third force” between the two big guns.

So, will it now support the PPP if they come up with a good idea?

…and parking contracts

And here we thought that the LGE meant Central Government would keep its nose out of local government matters. Now by taking a cut of the revenues from the parking meter deal, is the Central Government saying parking’s not within the City’s sole competence?