Is President Donald Ramotar developing the skills of a back-foot player? For starters, as so many have pointed out, the Linden crisis could have been avoided if the President had gone to that city long before the boiling point was reached. Instead his government catalyzed the tipping point and then the President reacted by attempting damage control and being dragged down a road he could have avoided in the first place. And so the Linden scenario has now become the tactic used by other communities to bring attention to their needs and may well become an entrenched protest weapon of the masses, one which always allows scope for opportunists to ride its waves and for some to ‘do their thing.’
More recently came the textbook fiasco, which generated widespread outrage and legal action at the international level. Once again the President stepped in to react, indicating that his government would “review that policy” while his cabinet spokesperson continued to wax arrogantly about the government not being concerned with the media and others on this issue. Somehow it seems to have escaped Dr Luncheon that ‘his’ government is supposedly a government of the entire nation and must therefore be concerned about all the people and be cognizant of all their views. Besides by what logic did Dr Luncheon and his cohorts determine that a government can simply pirate the intellectual property of anyone? If somehow they feel that Guyana is entering a state of anomie, surely their blinkers are not so wide that they cannot know that when Guyana sneezes the rest of the world will not catch a cold?
In between these two ‘affairs’ the government is still to recognize the need for police retraining with respect to dealing with crowds in particular and the populace in general, as well as the need to be armed with rubber bullets and other non-deadly deterrence
No wonder Mr Ramotar and his government gets blamed for all that is negative while the positives are alleged to happen in spite of him and his government. The latest in this tirade is avid letter writer, Mr Maxwell, who claims, “Guyana has developed in the past 20 years in spite of the PPP.“ Despite the sheer ludicrousness of this statement, it still places the Ramotar government on the back foot whereas a good front-foot player would long have used this data to play exquisite strokes.
In fact, my recent visit to Guyana revealed what many have been proclaiming: one has to look really hard to find shacks like the kind that dotted the landscape when I was growing up. Instead, intermingled with large constructions in both wood and concrete are palatial homes found throughout the coastlands and even in parts of the interior. In fact, as I write, construction is moving apace throughout the nation as vacant lands are being gobbled up. No wonder that the cost of land is now at a premium and houses are sold or rented at astronomical prices.
From all indications also, it would seem that almost every home possesses at least one TV and one fridge; most households own one or more vehicles and cell phones are as common as litter in Georgetown. The stock answer given when one asks about affordability is that people take loans. If this is indeed the case then quite clearly the people are comfortable about their ability to repay the loans in spite of generally low wages. Simultaneously the people would seem to express confidence in the economy by the quantity of their borrowing. Yet one cannot help but wonder how they are able to manage with the seemingly high cost of consumer items and foodstuff, including local produce. Perhaps a case of the Guyanese propensity to stretch every dollar? But certainly a situation made for excellent front foot strokes by the PPP.
Meanwhile as President Ramotar stumbles around, he still does not seem to understand the urgent need to rehabilitate the PPP’s grassroot structures that were so potent in keeping the party alive during its almost quarter century in the political wilderness and which were allowed to be overgrown with bushes during the Jagdeo era. Furthermore, having allowed an untenable situation to drive Ralph Ramkarran to publicly resign from the PPP, President Ramotar can only blithely say that “the PPP remains open to Ramkarran” when questioned on this issue. In reality he already should have been able to bring back Ralph into the fold, but apparently his back foot strokes cannot provide scoring momentum. Perhaps though, Mr Ramotar and the PPP are still confident that their trite and tested appeals would bring home the next elections as long as David Granger, whose penchant for alienating significant sections of the voting masses has become his stock in the trade, remains the PNC’s presidential candidate and its head honcho. Besides the Moses factor has not only fizzled out in the AFC but the AFC’s bark continues to leave its bite in the dust as it charges on a downward spiral. Both its current structure and its modus operandi belie its founding impetus to eschew ethnic politics, to be encompassing, inclusive and a political beast of a different nature than that of the two ossified behemoths.
Then there is the vexed question of PPP public communication. While in opposition, the PPP had a viable and encompassing communication committee that was very responsive to whatever was put out in the public domain, today not even the shell of that unit remains, another Jagdeo casualty that President Ramotar has not gotten round to resuscitate. And so while the PPP comes under unrelenting attack from all quarters and there are increasing attempts to revise Guyana’s history by many, including David Granger himself, the PPP remains impotent in response. In fact this communication impotency, manifested especially through the foot in the mouth syndrome, seems to have seeped into government as exhibited by a number of ministers (such as he of the ‘goat na bit me’ fame), and the pitiable efforts of a few paid scribblers for whom putting words on paper is a laborious and painstaking endeavour as well as certain entities like the police force. But then the police force has to be in the most unenviable position in Guyana – it’s damned it does and damned if it doesn’t, especially so, given that it has steadfastly refused to be influenced by the ‘kith and kin’ call.
In the meantime the PPP’s rank and file membership, its very lifeblood, continues to be disillusioned by the ostentatious display of power and wealth of the party apparatchiks and their seeming unconcern for the working class, the people for whom Cheddi Jagan gave his life’s toil. One cannot help but conclude that these little caesars are busy gathering nuts for the winter of their political life, while they condemn the party to an existence, once again, in the opposition in the not too distant future. For it seems clear that the PPP has entered into self-destruct mode, with chief operations officer, Mr Donald Ramotar, himself, manning the controls of annihilation.
To top it all off Guyana seems to be a nation racked by contradictions. But I’ll leave that for another time.