It took only eighteen years. After continuous denial, derision, and delay from the ruling party, two of its leading men grace the national stage to deliver confessions, with a third likely to hobble from among the goat herders to bow his head and admit to sins. The once clogged windpipes of disinterest and protective distancing have given way to a season of slow motion political theatre and suddenly discovered deficiencies.
First, there was the General Secretary in his characteristic hesitant stumbling way. There is corruption in Guyana; but only a little. No, he did not come forward with a true confession, and to hang his head in genuine contrition. This was-and still is-a game to be played to the last tricky word and syllable. Later, he saw some revision was in order, and became repentant. Well, sort of. This time, the repeat confessor bared his breast a little more; but only a little more. Yes, there is some level of corruption of Guyana. But again, there was a “but.” Now, it was a PNC legacy. As confessions went, this one was strange: it was somebody else’s wickedness. Still, it would be interesting to take the statements attributed to this aspirant who wants to go to heaven for five years, possibly more, to learn about the heft of his presidential timber. If there is some level of corruption, what is his definition of some, what does level mean to him, and what qualifies as corruption on his tablet of transgressions?
Corruption has been one of the major weaknesses of PPP administrations, and for a presidential hopeful to vacillate over this issue speaks volumes about his interest in changing the status quo come tomorrow. Prepare for more of the boys being boys, and letting sleeping (and richly pampered) dogs lie. Unsurprisingly, any presidential timber that might have existed has been seriously compromised by wood ants. It is shaky now, and can only get shakier later, when it really matters. Maybe the aspirant, seeking to imitate a time honoured ritual of the Roman church, did not fully understand the Latin, and mangled the English translation to the Guyanese public. If he finds righteousness on the third try, he can return to the confessional box and seek forgiveness; and votes, too.
Next, the speaker entered with this belated acknowledgement of “extreme poverty.” What took you so long, Mr. Speaker? Yes, “extreme poverty” has a certain resonance to it, and the humility of the confessional spirit. There was no hedging here; there is usually none when extreme is attached to a condition. Surely, none can be so crass as to take issue with wanting to improve the lot of those mired in these dire straits. But one has to wonder about the eighteen years of silence and tone deafness, when this problem of elementary subsistence ballooned and leaked right before the eyes. This situation existed while there were professionals trilling about the burgeoning middle class, and denigrating those who wrote of suffering and economic hardships of the masses. But it could be that the Speaker (like his competitor) had a little cuteness in mind when he settled upon extreme poverty as a campaign banner. He could be reaching past the Congress to the swing Amerindian vote; it is a community that some might characterize as in extremis. Or he was giving himself wriggle room though the use of extreme, which could allow the contention that it is not a substantial number. This would allow him the best of several worlds: to cast a wide net and appeal through using the poverty card; to insinuate that the PPP improved normal poverty levels rather significantly; to overcome the hurdle of congress and the deliberating politburo; and to immerse himself in a core issue that is distinctive enough while navigating treacherous shoals. Somehow, this confession-like that of the other fellow-does not provoke any celestial stirrings; only disgust and tiredness with the insistence on sticking to the error of old ways.
Clearly, both men failed when it counted. One spoke of legacy –a gift from the opposition; the other referred to 1997 and turmoil necessitating unprecedented responses and consequences. Honesty and history require recognition of these facts for they did prevail. Similarly, honesty and history attest to how little has been done to confront both corruption and poverty, among other ills, and to diminish their grip on society.
When some observed and announced the destitution of struggling citizens, ridicule from high political places followed; and when the slump of shoulders and pain of the spirit were revealed, no one agreed. After eighteen years of egregious conduct, why now? After eighteen ears of famine, why the sudden hunger for truth? Now the magnet of office opens eyes to see what was always there to be seen.
In the kindest sense that could be summoned, both men should be commended for a trickling honesty and candor. In another instance, this is not the time for partial and calculating truths. Stop the incrementalism, to use a fancy word. In plainer language, cut the temporizing and piecemeal confessions of aggregated sins of omission and commission. It is the time to come clean and give the nation the whole story. All of it, for it deserves nothing less, given the squalor and gnawing despondency of the last eighteen years.
Here are the confessional lines to be delivered: that there is a thriving thieving class that preys upon the hapless; that there is a massive narcotics class; and that there is a scheming political class. Taken together, they impoverish the spirit of the nation, and they harm the little ones most in need of assistance. And for this, there must be reckoning and penance.
Meanwhile, political watchers should brace for a third confession now being polished. It would be in the form of a political goat herder stepping out of the pen to confess about the need for security reengineering; In other words, serious police reform. Truly, an election is a terrible thing to waste.