In Guyana we are unwilling to discuss extra-parliamentary forms of struggle

Dear Editor,

Any objective observer of the political scene in Guyana is forced to conclude at this juncture that the parliamentary opposition political parties along with the party in government are preparing to participate in another set of general and regional elections in this country in 2011, without the requisite constitutional reforms to bring about the implementation of a shared governance/executive power sharing formula to move Guyana beyond its present state. My main concern in this letter is that we are heading into a potentially volatile political situation without any consensus among the forces opposed to the government on what constitutes peaceful struggle. This is an essential requirement to avoid shortcomings of the past.

Two years ago when armed African militants were active and were exerting tremendous pressure on the state, the rulers and the society, there was much debate in the press about their methods. As the upheavals continued unabated many contended that armed engagements and violence were not the correct ways to redress perceived wrongs in Guyana. In recognizing the value of this point of view I had used the opportunity to call for a public debate on the implementation of strategies and tactics which could be employed to achieve meaningful political change in the country. In making my call I explained that what I meant by meaningful political change was the institutionalizing of shared governance as the way out of the political impasse which Guyana has found itself in. To date, there has not been a single public response to my call. However, for the record I must inform readers that I did receive a private response from one of our prominent politicians who recommended the reading of a certain book.

In Guyana we are unwilling to discuss extra-parliamentary forms of struggle. Even at the intellectual level, ‘leadership’ discussions about the strategic and tactical importance of this form of struggle are not forthcoming. The reluctance by this class of ‘leaders’ to engage these necessary discussions appears to be rooted in the fear of reprisal from the rulers and their allies and an over concern that views expressed will not be accepted.  No country can make real progress and realize its full potential without open and frank debates on the way forward. In these debates society is obliged to examine all options and very often it is the intelligentsia, professionals, trade unions, civil society and political organizations that initiate and lead the debates.

The masses are very often inspired by the evolving process and participate in it with the hope that whatever results will redound to the benefit of the nation. I submit here that in Guyana for the most part our intelligentsia has become politically impotent, refusing to speak out as an organized force, and the civic and political forces are obsessed with, and have become entrapped in contesting elections for the sake of contesting elections and not as an instrument through which meaningful political change will occur.

As I had said earlier it was my hope that through open public debate we would have been able to establish some consensus on potential forms of struggle and more importantly, the adoption of strategy and tactics which are acceptable to us as a nation, in extra-parliamentary struggle. Now that the resistance is inactive and the rulers continue to demonstrate unlimited contempt for the people, there is a growing recognition among a large segment of people in the society of the need for determined resistance against the government’s excesses in the form of street protests. This is a welcome shift in public opinion.

Finally, I want to reiterate that while I support street protest as a necessary form of struggle, I am concerned that we have failed to establish any consensus among the opposition and civil society forces on the rules of the engagement. Our unwillingness to have these discussions only benefits the rulers.

Yours faithfully,
Tacuma Ogunseye

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