A bleak prog­no­sis?

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

The gov­ern­ment is silently lean­ing the econ­omy to­wards Burn­ham’s so­cial­ist con­trol sys­tem, to co­op­er­a­tivism and poverty, where the sugar work­ers suf­fer and the pri­vate sec­tor has no in­flu­ence. The past gov­ern­ment’s poli­cies favoured drug lords, the crim­i­nally in­clined and busi­ness crooks. While th­ese two par­ties are in ex­is­tence racism will never die in Guyana and the prob­lems out­lined above, and more, will never be re­solved. Guyanese have a de­ci­sion to make, or not to make and to live with the con­se­quences. That de­ci­sion is whether or not to sup­port a po­lit­i­cal party for the next elec­tions to be soon an­nounced by Mr Craig Sylvester, whose views, as set out in a let­ter in yes­ter­day’s KN, are sum­ma­rized above.

The dom­i­nant nar­ra­tives in and about Guyana are con­di­tioned by slav­ery, in­den­ture­ship and their con­se­quences. One ma­jor con­se­quence is the ex­is­tence of two eth­nic blocs which have been so­cial­ized dif­fer­ently and separately. Guyana con­sists largely of two dif­fer­ent so­ci­eties, in watch­ful com­pe­ti­tion, but largely at peace, ex­ist­ing un­der the same na­tional roof.

The man­ner in which th­ese eth­nic blocs rep­re­sent what they per­ceive their in­ter­ests to be has evolved over the years, but with a cen­tral theme re­volv­ing around the idea of agreed united po­lit­i­cal ac­tion. Dur­ing the 1950s, two ma­jor in­dus­trial events, namely the Teare strike of trans­port work­ers and the En­more strike of sugar work­ers pushed the restive mid­dle class into a na­tional al­liance un­der the PPP. The un­der­ly­ing idea was that co­op­er­a­tion to achieve in­de­pen­dence and so­cial­ism will ben­e­fit all who were represented un­der the big tent of the PPP. That idea of a sin­gle big, po­lit­i­cal tent did not last and it should be no sur­prise that it did not.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties rep­re­sent in­ter­ests, ini­tially as Marx iden­ti­fied, class in­ter­ests. The rise in con­scious­ness of eth­nic groups have re­sulted in po­lit­i­cal par­ties as eth­nic in­stru­ments. No po­lit­i­cal party in Guyana will ad­mit this. One rea­son is that they also re­ceive sub­stan­tial sup­port from other groups for vary­ing rea­sons, although more than ninety per cent of the ma­jor eth­nic groups sup­port their favoured party. For the fore­see­able fu­ture, there­fore, there will be two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Guyana, largely rep­re­sent­ing the two ma­jor eth­nic groups. Th­ese par­ties might not nec­es­sar­ily be the PPP and the PNC but we should be thank­ful that it is th­ese two par­ties and not other, more ex­treme, fascis­tic par­ties. We have had a dif­fi­cult and un­for­tu­nate his­tory, but it could have been worse.

In ear­lier decades, it was frowned upon – in­fra dig ‒ for eth­nic groups to rep­re­sent that they had sep­a­rate in­ter­ests that were in­de­pen­dent of the na­tional in­ter­est. This has changed for many rea­sons, both ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal, as the decades went by. It is now ar­gued that eth­nic in­ter­ests are part of or in the na­tional in­ter­est. The rea­sons are im­por­tant but an anal­y­sis is be­yond the scope of this ar­ti­cle. What is im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge is that in­de­pen­dent or­ga­niz­ing and ar­tic­u­la­tion of such

Win­ter­ests are be­ing ac­com­mo­dated, re­sent­fully or grudg­ingly some­times, but ac­cepted. hile the ideal of po­lit­i­cal unity un­der one party did not sur­vive, the idea of united po­lit­i­cal ac­tion sur­vived the rise of eth­nic­ity. This is one of Guyana’s en­dur­ing po­lit­i­cal nar­ra­tives. The split in the PPP oc­curred in 1955. By the early 1960s there was se­ri­ous talk and ne­go­ti­a­tion for a coali­tion gov­ern­ment to ease the po­lit­i­cal ten­sion at that time. In the mid-1970s, the PPP pro­posed a coali­tion ar­range­ment un­der the na­tional pa­tri­otic front gov­ern­ment. In the 1990s the PPP adopted the prin­ci­ple of ‘win­ner does not take all.’ In 2002 the PNC ac­cepted ‘shared gov­er­nance’ in prin­ci­ple. In 2015 the APNU+AFC coali­tion ac­cepted con­sti­tu­tional re­form which will see: 1. sep­a­rate elec­tions for pres­i­dent; 2. the vice-pres­i­dent be­ing the per­son who re­ceives the sec­ond high­est votes in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions; 3. all po­lit­i­cal par­ties gain­ing more than 15 per cent of the vote be­ing part of the gov­ern­ment. The coali­tion promised to start the process of con­sti­tu­tional re­form within one month of

its elec­tion to of­fice.

The bleak­ness of Mr Sylvester’s prog­no­sis is shared by many. But his so­lu­tion, an­other po­lit­i­cal party, will not solve the prob­lem. Third par­ties or move­ments world­wide have a short life un­less they rep­re­sent a sta­ble and per­ma­nent mi­nor­ity in­ter­est. They have not sur­vived in Guyana and ap­peals to racial unity will con­tinue to fall on deaf ears. Africans and In­di­ans want to sup­port the par­ties which they per­ceive are rep­re­sent­ing them.

We need to ac­cept the ex­is­tence of the PPP and PNC and work to be­ing united po­lit­i­cally by way of con­sti­tu­tional re­form which both po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the diplo­matic com­mu­nity in Guyana sup­port. This will not solve all prob­lems but it is the ba­sic pre-req­ui­site for the re­duc­tion of dis­crim­i­na­tion, cor­rup­tion and the other ills men­tioned by Mr Sylvester. With the de­vel­op­ing oil econ­omy and vastly more re­sources avail­able, th­ese prob­lems will in­ten­sify and mul­ti­ply un­less there is a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion in Guyana. Cor­rup­tion did not emerge with the PPP. One rea­son that caused its ex­pan­sion was the ex­pan­sion of pub­lic spend­ing from $3 bil­lion a year prior to 1992 to $20 bil­lion plus there­after. With the oil re­sources, which will mul­ti­ply pub­lic spend­ing sev­eral times over, and one po­lit­i­cal group in con­trol, imag­ine what will hap­pen!

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