The AFC’s preemptive preclusion of alliance with either of the two main parties undermines its doctrine of coalition building

Dear Editor,
The principle of political exclusion articulated in the AFC’s statement of July 24, 2010 may transpose, if not obviate, consideration of that party’s political philosophy. Until now, the AFC’s ethos seemed stimulating and revitalizing to Guyana’s political culture – it endowed the party with an enviable momentum as general elections speculation becomes rife and election manoeuvrings gain primacy in the ruling PPP. But Guyana’s political history is replete with lessons of parties that adopted insular policies that paralyzed their evolution and reduced them to mere academic instruction – mere footnotes of history. In this regard, Edmund Burke’s axiom “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” proves timeless, and seems to have been envisaged for this circumstance. Is the AFC doomed to repeat history?

The AFC’s statement affirmed its executive committee’s determination that “Alliances and partnerships should be forged with the majority decision being that the AFC, as early as is possible, proceed to forge alliances with civic society groups, like-minded political entities, and even personalities from both the PPP/C and the PNC/R, but not with the PPP/C or the PNC/R as political organizations. The pre-election exclusion of the latter two from the process of alliance building and partnership was in recognition that these two parties are wholly incompatible with the AFC, which is the Party of the future; and, that the AFC ultimately will not be able to maintain its identity and core principles if it were to ally with either one of them.”

There is a pervasive view that the country is as divided as it has ever been and that the discriminatory policies of the PPP ethnocracy engender a level of polarization that has made Guyana mulishly unstable and arguably ungovernable. In light of this contending view, the aforementioned position of the AFC can only be seen as lacking wisdom and as a manifestation of political immaturity. On its face, it seriously undermines the main thrust of the party’s doctrine of coalition building and national harmony; dilutes its credibility as an entity that professes a willingness to forge alliances throughout the continuum of the Guyanese political landscape, and exposes the AFC’s core philosophy as fundamentally flawed and intellectually obtuse. Our polity is too rancid and cannot accommodate another political party that is intractably self-absorbed and insular. Unfortunately, like the other parties who also claim to be open to an alliance intend to do, the AFC has made the cardinal mistake of more or less naming a presidential candidate – Khemraj Ramjattan. I would not even bother to elaborate on the apparent irony of first naming a presidential candidate prior to negotiations aimed at forging an alliance; except to ask if the AFC truly believes that if it were to enter a partnership with one of the two major parties that commands mass support from the electorate, that its partner will accept the candidate of the lesser party? When these sets of circumstances are analyzed in their entirety, they portend a theme that appears incongruous with the message of alliance building, and more in harmony with “politics as usual.”

Furthermore, the philosophy of political exclusion appears to comport with the view repeatedly stated by Khemraj Ramjattan – that he does not think the AFC should enter a coalition, and dissimilar to the position adumbrated by Raphael Trotman in an interview with Demerara Waves only last week. I have major reservations about the competence and integrity of the current leadership of the PNC, and would seriously weigh whether I can, or ask anyone else to, support the PNC if it goes into the 2011 general election with the current leader at the helm, but would not adopt or advocate a posture of disengagement. Hence, the AFC’s flippant, preemptive preclusion of dialogue with either of the two main political parties that together represent about 85% of the electorate, betrays an institution with an oxymoronic, enigmatic philosophy – advocating the need for coalition building on the one hand, while simultaneously retreating from that very position and undermining any possibility at accomplishing a “broad-based” alliance.

In essence, it is apparent that the AFC intends to go it alone at the polls, as the existence of the lesser parties with whom it seems disposed to negotiate is purely theoretical. They are absent from reality and have no tangible impact on, or relevance to, national life. Further, some of the political, civil society, community, trade union, business and religious leaders with whom it proposes to forge its so-called alliance on an individual basis, have in the past either demonstrated no serious political will or subjected themselves to the influence and manipulation of one political ideology or another. So why must we take them seriously this time? This is the reality, and the people should not be deceived by fanciful diatribe and demagoguery.

Khemraj Ramjattan is a friend whom I respect. But I see no raison d’être in his “no coalition” position and am perplexed that that thinking contends. This is especially so because an analysis of the 2006 general election results will establish that Khemraj Ramjattan as a founding AFC principal had no “real” impact on the AFC vote. Based on traditional voting patterns, the AFC had no meaningful impact in the areas of the country that he perceivably could have influenced because of his personal qualities, orientation and prior political affiliation. The 2006 votes came from traditional PNC strongholds. It would therefore have been prudent politics for the AFC to at least enter negotiations with the PNC and attempt to foster a favourable modus vivendi with the PNC and other like-minded institutions, in the interest of the country, and forge an incomparable alliance in order to consolidate itself as a political force to contest the 2011 elections, and wrest the government from the PPP.

I do not posit these observations to discredit the AFC or anyone in its leadership. I have many friends in the AFC whom I admire and respect. But I am terribly disappointed with its stance. If the party follows through with this ill-conceived position stated above, it will squander the trust and hope it has built up over the past five years, and guarantee the PPP another victory. I do not think that the AFC has come this far only to walk away from its moment of truth, and thwart the hopes, dreams and aspirations of those young people who have a vision for Guyana that rests on racial harmony, political unity and tranquility, national renaissance and ultimate development; and who have placed faith in the AFC to help them realize this dream.

My counsel to the AFC is therefore; as you evolve and mature, do not “metamorphose” into another intractable political dinosaur. Review your creed. Do not walk away from these young people and through your intransigence, condemn them to a morass of apathy and cynicism, and therein fulfill Edmond Burke’s timeless prophecy; “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Yours faithfully,
Rickford Burke