As the world celebrates the individual and collective successes of nations at the London 2012 Olympics it seems that the only thing our government can hope to celebrate will be the notion of a gold medal for taking our country to the brink of a ‘failed state.’ The ‘failed state’ concept, which came to prominence in academic and policy discourse in the early 1990s with the publication of David Helman and Steven Ratner’s (1991) article Saving Failed States, continues to enjoy widespread currency as a way of denoting situations where the governmental infrastructure has broken down to a considerable degree. The concept of a ‘failed state’ can be criticised on a number of levels, from its essentialist use of language to the particularist basis of defining ‘failure’ and the manner in which it sets up a dichotomous opposition.
A statement that a failed state is symptomatic of reactionary leadership is likely to be received with mixed emotions amongst political leaders in Guyana. However, a critical analysis of realities on the ground such as the Linden killings, widespread corruption, nepotism, etc, may increase an understanding of the extent to which a failed state is symptomatic of reactionary leadership. In a country that is and has always been multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-faith, it is not difficult to comprehend what the root causes of internal conflict may be. Power, wealth and greed cannot be ruled out. However, and more importantly, one does not have to be a brain surgeon to recognise that the root cause of internal conflict in Guyana today is the lack of sensitivity of the Ramotar administration to govern for the ‘greatest good.’
Shoved in our faces on a daily basis, for example, is the unfair distribution of power and wealth exemplified by an elitist group of advisors to the President.
The foremost characteristic of a failed state is the breakdown of order and the rule of law. We are not quite there, but to suggest we are on the brink is not incorrect. Many factors contribute to the breakdown of order and the rule of law. For example, there are human rights violations such as corporal punishment in schools, torture whilst in police custody, the shooting of innocent protesters with rubber bullets and more recently the Linden killings. These manifestations when they occur reflect a system that is unable to provide good governance and effective leadership.
Another indicator is when heinous crimes are committed and the system is unable to bring the perpetrators to justice, leaving the victims with the perception and belief that the state has failed them. There is a lack of discipline and order in society where juniors blatantly defy orders from seniors and elders and in some cases publicly disrespect them. There is a simple reason for this.
Those above have lost the moral high ground, the authority to lead and their moral compass. As a result, the management of the system becomes shambolic and rampantly indisciplined. The combination of shambles, indiscipline and reactionary poor leadership results in irregularities in stewardship, causing the country to become infested with greedy and corrupt money-grabbers.
Another important characteristic of a failed state is when the system itself becomes part of the problem.
The situation in Linden was avoidable if our leaders had the skills, tools and strategies of forward thinkers instead of reactors. The people of Linden are now facing the aftershock of the first wave of irrational reactionary leadership traits from a weak, uninspired, wounded and callous clique at Office of the President.
The Ramotar administration is composed of reactionaries – some may say daydreamers when it comes to addressing challenges. In most cases, they get it wrong because of poor targeting and a lack of realism, so challenges are not properly addressed. It is therefore no wonder that when the leadership is reactionary, progression to a failed state situation becomes a possibility.