The fire this time – again

Last Wednesday, I was a panelist on a social media platform, along with WPA’s David Hinds and Deon Abrams (and two others), to discuss “Strategies for fostering Social Cohesion in the era of Oil and Gas”. I pointed out that in a most divisive political realm, we had been “fortuitously” delivered into a situation where we are a nation of minorities. And that a party committed to democratic norms could rationally appeal to voters outside of its base to secure political office. It happened in 2011, 2015, and 2020.
I explained, however, that I had viewed the WPA’s recent public meetings at Mocha, Golden Grove, and Den Amstel, and that the narrative adopted by Hinds, Ogunseye and Deon et al was “destructive in our present circumstances.”
I explained: “Narratives can make certain actions more plausible, and therefore more probable than others. They also can serve as exacerbators or inhibitors of conflict. The more that exclusivity and mutual incompatibility are expressed, the harder it is for opponents to alter their relationship; conversely, the more that narratives are, or become, inclusive, the more likely it is that the parties can deal successfully with differences.” And the WPA narrative was most exclusive and mutually incompatible.
I pointed out that Hinds’s description of the PPP as “enemies”, rather than “opponents”, was not helpful. And that in exhorting the army and Police to stand down as “kith and kin”, they are promoting “anarchy” in Guyana. I said I knew there would be a meeting at Buxton the following evening, and wondered whether it would be the same cherry-picked narrative expressed in “vitriolic language”, that stirs up deeply hostile emotions in African Guyanese by highlighting state actions against African Guyanese but silencing identical actions against Indian Guyanese.
I noted that, as a political
party seeking votes, the WPA’s one-sided narrative would create a self-fulfilling prophecy that could destroy the Opposition’s chances of securing crossover votes, necessary to win elections.
Hinds responded: “For me, it’s not about elections: elections will solve nothing in Guyana – that is merely exchange”. I responded: “For David to dismiss democracy as a central value that we should hold on to is reminiscent of Forbes Burnham and what he did to this country when he played fast and loose with the notion of democracy. I never thought that someone from the WPA would dismiss democracy. If not democracy, then what?”
At Buxton last Thursday, we found out: it was the “solution” of an armed force coup against the PPP Government. Tacuma Ogunseye offered a background that matched Hinds’s and concluded bluntly: “We cannot wait on the elections cycle to resolve this matter”. He continued, “…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.
“…sometimes people tell me that the struggle to remove the PPP will be hard and long, but I don’t necessary agree with them…because, at the end of the day, no Government could survive if they don’t have the support of the military and those who carry weapons for the state… The reality is: the army and the Police are majority African Guyanese…once we organise our people and once we begin to fight, we will ensure that our brothers and sisters in uniform will do the right thing; and when they do the right thing, this matter is over in days, and not weeks…it has to be strategic. The struggle doesn’t necessarily have to be long”.
Tacuma left no doubt about the nature of the “struggle”: “During the (Buxton-based) crisis of 2002-2005…the WPA met the foreign diplomats…A White diplomat…said, “I don’t understand a people saying they are oppressed and they have all the guns in their hands. They are the majority in the army, the majority in the Police, and they still say they are oppressed?”
About Minister Ronald Gajraj: “The man big suh (opening his arms wide); you can’t miss!”
Hinds agreed with Tacuma in noting: “When the time comes, our brothers in uniform know what they have to do, because they come from us…They stand here tonight to protect us…they stand here tonight as our kith and kin.”
In response, the Chairman of the Joint Services, Brigadier Godfrey Bess, said the Joint Services “is an apolitical institution”. We shall see.