These days Mr Corbin, Leader of the PNC, is being criticized for abandoning the ‘mo fyaah/slo fyaah’ campaign initiated by his predecessor, Mr Desmond Hoyte. Mr Corbin is the leader of a major political party. In my view, he has a responsibility to his country, his party and to himself. I believe his decision, for whatever reason, to abandon street protests was the right one. The street protests of the ‘mo fyaah/slo fyaah’ campaigns in Georgetown, whether infiltrated by saboteurs from the governing party or common hoodlums bent on mischief, as some have claimed, often resulted in violence against Indian Guyanese and the looting of business places. This was detrimental to the country, to the PNC which got the blame, and to the image of the party’s leader.
I firmly believe that the ‘mo fyaah/slo fyaah’ protests strengthened the hands of President Jagdeo both locally and internationally. Locally, it solidified Indian Guyanese support for the PPP and it may have helped also in denuding the PNC of support by causing many moderate African Guyanese who disagreed with the policy to move over to the AFC. Internationally, it likely forced the USA, Britain and Canada, to overlook and be less critical of the shortcomings and failures of the PPP Government.
In assessing the post-1997 period of Guyanese history, historians are likely to conclude that the leaders opposed to the government overplayed their hands. The confrontational approach taken by leaders of the Public Service Union in its dealings with the government and their sharing of platforms with the major opposition party no doubt contributed to the effective sidelining of this once very powerful body. International agencies, mindful of the major role played by this organization in helping to remove the PPP from government in the 1960s, chose to remain quiet. Mr Hoyte’s ‘mo fyaah/slo fyaah’ campaign, while it produced short-term gains, rekindled the ethnic divide of the early 1960s and strengthened the base support of the PPP, a case akin to an army general winning a battle but losing the war. And the reluctance of leaders of the police and the army to effectively control the violence on the East Coast of Demerara gave Mr Jagdeo the justification for replacing the upper echelons of these organizations with officers more willing to execute their professional responsibilities and more amenable to government oversight.
Very often a political leader’s focus is short term, ie thinking about winning the next election. It appears to me that for the first time since its defeat in 1992, the PNC, through Mr Corbin’s action, has given consideration to the long term. By deciding against mass street protests and avoiding potential violence against Indian Guyanese, PPP supporters are not being distracted and they are starting to see some of the shortcomings of their party in government. For the first time in its history, we see GAWU officials publicly criticizing and taking action against their own government over reported mismanagement of the sugar industry. We also see party stalwarts being sidelined.
Mr Corbin may not be the beneficiary of the tiny cracks that are starting to appear within the ranks of the PPP. However, in the short term, his abandonment of the ‘mo fyaah/slo fyaah’ campaign may have saved his party from extinction and may help it to regain grounds lost to the AFC.
As for the long term, with patience, the right leadership, sound policies and a demonstrated commitment to inclusiveness, his party may surprise many sooner than some can imagine.
Contrary to what is being written in the press, not all who vote for the PPP do so because of race. Many vote for this party because they see no better alternative that considers their interests. In my view, Mr Corbin deserves credit for his courageous stance in abandoning ‘mo fyaah/slo fyaah.’