The re-toppling of Guyana’s democracy: The choice ahead

Dear Editor,
The split decision by the Court of Appeal overturning two previous rulings affirming the December 21, 2018, No-confidence Motion is a grotesque upending of justice, dressed up in pig-lipstick.
All the pseudointellectual talk of Simple v Absolute in this straightforward majority situation in which every Member of Parliament was present, is just that: pretentious gobbledegook. It is: I stick my finger in the eye of the common people and dare them to say the emperor has no clothes – because only smart people can see the fine robes that his lordship has spun and their ladyships have blessed. In Guyanese style, humour one of our man-on-the-street countrymen asked tongue in cheek, “If 33:32 was not majority passage in Parliament, can you tell me if the 2:1 court ruling on this highly important matter is really a majority ruling?”
You can put lipstick on a pig; but it’s still a pig. Nothing can cover that up. Some may split hairs on how much direct architect or object of tribute Granger was in this one. However, the end result is the same; it is egregious and portends badly.
The court challenge was one in a string of Granger Administration’s manoeuvres designed to keep delaying elections and buy time. Time which, in the manner of his military stratagem training, has been used in the past to stealthily deploy an increasing preponderance of physical and material advantage at key decisive points such as the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Local Government, the Judiciary and security forces – all of which have influential roles and are potential levers to lean on.
Keeping his party in power, regardless of whether they have the support and confidence of a majority of Guyanese, has been his solitary goal in Government – all be it that his years in power have been a disaster for the management of the country as a whole; he has no cohesive plan for the well-being of everyday-people and has vacated himself from these duties. He has, however, been silently executing on his singular goal, while the clatter and noise occur above.
By design on his part and omission on our part, the clatter and noise is what has caught most of the attention of critical review. His party’s many blunders, their scandals, their economic incompetence, and their ridiculous half-person argument, have crowded out the nefarious manoeuvres occurring below. We have failed to paint the complete big picture of these consequential moves to undermine democracy that have been engineered into place at almost subsurface level; the various pieces of which individually are worrisome and combined reveal a war gaming strategy focused on a foreboding ultimate goal.

The result was that if the exact 2016 vote was replicated in 2018, the PPP/C would lose 29 seats while APNU/AFC would remain unchanged

For example, concurrent with their offensive campaign of compromising and infiltrating primary targets, his Administration has continuously deployed other military inspired stratagems to keep the Opposition off balance and consume its resources in attending to fires (SOCU); diversions; feints (duplicitous acceptance of NCM then reversal) and psychological and economic warfare.
In some cases, multiple objectives are achieved at the same time. The attack on the Opposition’s morale, economic warfare, and consumption of Opposition resources and attention were simultaneously achieved by the raising of taxes on agricultural equipment. This was then repeated with even greater effect with the closure of the sugar estates. These stratagems could all have been directly lifted out of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
Similarly, his delaying tactics and duplicity throughout the three-month ordeal following the passage of the NCM is a prime demonstration of Sun Tzu’s maxim: all warfare is based on deception.
Verifiable evidence of the Administration’s efforts to subvert democracy is in plain sight in their altering of the geography of the Opposition’s support and on the ground representation in fourteen Local Government Areas (LGAs) in 2018. It was a consequential foray but lightly reported on.
To put it simply, they gerrymandered the LGAs using Crack and Pack and Hatch-a-Seat operations. Large People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) constituencies were combined thereby reducing the number of area seats, while small A Partnership for National Unity constituencies were split creating more area seats. The adjacent charts give a quick visual of this.
The result was that if the exact 2016 vote were replicated in 2018 the PPP/C would lose 29 seats while APNU/Alliance For Change would remain unchanged.
As is known, the PPP/C won sweeping victories in the 2018 Local Government Elections (LGE) because of dissatisfaction with the Administration. But in those fourteen LGAs the number of PPP/C affiliated Councillors declined by 14 per cent.
Their actions combined show an administration intent on holding office whether or not they achieve that through free and fair elections. The gerrymandering of LGE, though significant in its own rights, may have been just a dry run for bigger operations.
Also, the presence in the country of Cambridge Analytica still remains an open question. All parties deny working with them. The company provided psych ops strategy to governments and military organisations worldwide. It was forced to discontinue operations in 2018 when its involvement in the Facebook data breach scandal was uncovered and its dirty tricks in other countries began to be revealed.
This is not the first time that Guyana has started down this road. The last time it did so the main party in the APNU coalition also formed Government; to the misfortune of the country. The hallmarks of that administration have resurfaced in the Granger Administration: the subversion of democracy and bad economic management. These sent the country into a tail-spin that ended up with Guyana being the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It also became one of the most indebted nations in the world under Finance Minister Carl Greenidge now Foreign Affairs Minister. There was a mass exodus of Guyanese to other countries, which now almost like in a dark comedy, manifests itself politically as the dual-citizenship issue.
Before the downward spiral, Guyana was seen as having all it takes, and on the cusp of becoming a prosperous nation. There was sunshine, abundant land and water, gold, bauxite, sugar, rice, diamonds and timber. The people were capable and spoke English.
Now that promise has again come to the fore with newly discovered off-shore oil. We all hope it is fulfilled. The danger is that this Administration’s history indicates not only a bent towards autocracy and mismanagement, but that any benefit would accrue to just a small elite, while the majority outside the chain are relegated to abject poverty. Case in point Nigeria, with rich oil reserves and other parallels with Guyana. To take a quote from a description of the situation in the book A Swamp Full of Dollars: The more widely better communications, the possibility of travel and ostentatious consumer goods have become available in the Niger Delta, …the more the villagers who live above the oilfields have noticed the difference between their circumstances and those of the people who exploit their natural riches.
Nigeria is ranked as having the 11th largest proven oil reserves in the world. It is also one of the poorest countries in the world. A top world producer of groundnuts, palm oil and other agricultural products before the discovery of oil, the country was lured away from the long-term agriculture by the promise of instant oil rewards. Closer to home, another example of the misfortune that can befall even oil-rich countries is Venezuela. They have the largest proven oil reserves in the world, yet Venezuelan citizens are seeking refuge on Guyana’s muddy shores.
The management of any economy is a complex business. Throw in the vagaries of the oil industry and you have exponential challenges. This Administration has shown that that they are neither equipped nor willing to deal with those challenges. In addition, the country is again at risk of being railroaded down an undemocratic path.
We have seen what the Granger Administration has done with the time they’ve had. Further delay of the election and the benefit of incumbency provides more opportunity for less free and fair elections. Hopefully the international attention that their actions have attracted will contain the situation to some extent.
People will have to choose and they will have to make their voices heard.

Ron Cheong