Trust deficit in Guyana

It is not hard to discern that trust is a commodity in very short supply in Guyana today. Take, for instance, the reactions to the revelation that there were actually two letters sent by President David Granger to the Chairman of GECOM, James Patterson. The latter’s claim that there is nothing untoward in the second letter, and it does not contradict the first, was supported by the PNC Commissioners.
But while this is arguable, the “trust antenna” of the PPP members on the Commission had to have been raised, since they had to actually request the second letter be produced, after having been alerted to its existence by the Leader of the Opposition. It was brought to his notice after it was uploaded to the Ministry of the Presidency’s website, and he declared that there had to be some “fraud” in the making. What exacerbated the PPP’s suspicions on the import of the second letter was that it was used by the PNC Commissioners to then argue for house-to-house registration, which had been the PNC-led coalition’s position all along.
The reaction of mistrust by the Opposition Leader and the PPP GECOM Commissioners has to be viewed against the background of the strenuous efforts of the PNC-led Government to hold off the holding of elections as long as possible. Because of the shift in the Government’s initial acceptance that the successful NCM constitutionally mandated elections three months from Dec 21, 2018, the posture of cynicism appears to be in danger of becoming ingrained in our national psyche.
This eventuality does not bode well for the development of a more secure and harmonious society, which all Guyanese so strongly desire, and which is materially within our grasp with first oil in sight. It also does not bode well for the development of democratic governance in Guyana, which had been slowly reinstated by the PPP after democracy was restored in 1992, following 28 years of rigged elections by the PNC.
Trust, after all, is the cement that holds together any agglomeration of humanity. The very notion of “social” implies a recognition of predictability in the actions of people that has to be undergirded by trust. Absent this crucial element, we revert to the law of the jungle. The Swedish-born philosopher and ethicist Sissela Bok wrote, “Trust is a social good to be protected just as much as the air we breathe or the water we drink. When it is damaged, the community as a whole suffers; and when it is destroyed, societies falter and collapse.”
As far as the life of nations go, ours is still in its infancy. But surely the PNC-led Government must recognise that, as a people, it is not only the interests, but the fates of all Guyanese that are interwoven and intertwined. Whatever we may value – be it material, cultural or spiritual goods – we inevitably have to fall back on others to secure it, or at least not to frustrate its acquisition. And this is where trust comes into the picture.
This is not to acknowledge that there is a certain element of risk in the matter of trust, which has been defined as “the willingness to act on the basis of the words, actions, and decisions of another.” But the PPP would be foolish to ignore the tendency of the PNC-led Government to make the most outrageous false claims – for instance, that 33 is not the majority in 65 seats — and trust their motives. As a result, rather than give them the “benefit of the doubt” – which is all that is required in the realm of trust in the public arena – the PPP have to assume the worst and take pre-emptive, “defensive” steps.
Guyana is at a most critical juncture in our history, where at long last we have the opportunity to realise our potential. We have to develop shared values and goals, but this is possible only if we first allow trust to grow.