I, like my colleagues, have been inundated with questions, petitions and even insults relating to the position of the Alliance for Change (AFC) on the matter of becoming part of APNU. I tender these thoughts as much for the benefit of the AFC faithful as for members of the public as a whole.
When I left the PNC in 2005, having neither been thrown out or having left in anger and with thoughts of revenge, I decided to encourage Khemraj to join me in creating a new political force, I envisioned, and intended, that new movement to be a movement for change, that is to say that we would deliver to the people of Guyana that peace and stability, collective vision and togetherness that had eluded us for more than forty years. We were to be the party that built rather than destroyed. We were to represent the children of our parents who had locked themselves into an epic and unending battle. We were to construct a new house for ourselves and children, and if the possibility arose, to even invite our parents, once prepared to conduct themselves properly, to join us inside the walls of a new structure in a more convivial environment. In this way, even though as adults we had moved from the house of birth, we would still honour our parents as good children do. In short, we were not to hate our parents, or to seek to destroy them, but to intercede in the fighting, to bring it to an end and to point them in the direction of a better way of life.
We recognized then that we were up against a race-based system that had, for decades, kept generations of Guyanese trapped and bonded in an ethno-political cage and that the task that we had set ourselves would not be easy to accomplish. I have used the analogy before,- and believe it is worth repeating here – of us providing the bridge to allow the residents living in homes on the two banks of the same river, to co-exist and to cooperate.
Interestingly, all of us have been influenced by, and/or carry the DNA of, one of four parties that dominated and shaped the socio-political and socio-economic culture and landscape between 1966 and 2005-prior to the AFC’s formation. These were the PNC, PPP, TUF and WPA. Some of us may want to argue that we were never members of any Party as such, but if we are to be true to ourselves, we had leanings or sympathies one way or another, or our immediate relatives were very involved; thus giving us a kind of vicarious and inescapable involvement.
These four political parties have left an indelible mark on our lives and will continue to do so for many, many generations to come. Therefore, when I hear talk of “getting rid of” and “evil” and “monsters”, “Blacks” and “Indians” to describe one or all of these, it distresses me because these statements belie the fact that we are all inextricably and inexorably linked to one or more of them. Our role therefore is not to destroy, but to improve, make better, perfect and build; recognising that the persons in the other parties are not the “evil” ones, but our blood cousins. We cannot therefore practice the politics of hate even though others try their best to drag us there. Likewise, we have a duty to demonstrate to the generation that is coming that we are willing to extend the hand of forgiveness where there is sincere and meaningful acknowledgement of past wrongs. Our children are watching to see whether we leave, intact and reinforced, the racial garrisons, or whether we will offer them freedom. What legacy do we bequeath?
Reconciliation, and its offspring, healing, were to be the bedrocks on which the AFC was established. We were to provide the bridge between the many siblings, but especially, amongst the two who are suspicious and distrustful of each other. In this context therefore, simply going with one against the other is a decision not to be taken lightly, but must be made based on what is in the best interest of the people. However, there are times, when the AFC will have to enter alliances with one, or the other, for the fulfillment of that national good. Our parliamentary record accurately displays our ability to support various initiatives and efforts of the various parliamentary parties at various times; much to the annoyance of the other whenever we do. Such must be the case if one of the two earnestly asks for assistance, is contrite, and demonstrates a public willingness to enter into a new paradigm. “The path is made by walking.”
We in the AFC didn’t come to vie for, and occupy, the position of being “better”, but rather, that of being “different.” Different how? I sincerely believe that it is not what we do so much that causes confusion and derision, but how. We have to offer a different paradigm that is established not on the old style foundations built with the mortar of division, but rather, that of togetherness; one in which our diversity is to be used as our greatest strength.
We can’t show a willingness to work in a post-election construct with the very people with whom we claim we are unable to work with in a pre-election construct. In such a hypocritical scenario, the only thing separating us is one day of elections and some results that come thereafter. Attitudes don’t change with an election. It takes courage to change attitudes. Therefore, our task has to be one of not competing, as it were, for the same space, or against other parties in the traditional sense, but through creating an obvious differentiation that allows those who wish to free themselves of the ethnic collar, to come to us. Thereafter, we hold hands as promised before. It is clear, that for manifold reasons, I shouldn’t spit on the extended hand in the days leading to the election, and then expect that that same hand will be willingly extended to me in the days after, and that even if extended, will lead to meaningful relationships being built. We therefore have to be very careful with how we deal with the issue of alliances and if we decline to join the fight by taking the side of one against the other, then, how we extricate ourselves and explain our position, is as important as why.
The raison d’être of the AFC must therefore be its role of facilitator in the reconciliation that has to come. This objective must underpin every action we take. In this regard, a strategy of promoting a national-unity government wherein, the willing and the best of the contesting parties must be invited to join the government, if the AFC wins the elections, is the suggested approach we should adopt. Likewise, if we fail to garner the majority of votes, and are asked to join the government formed by another Party, we must use every ounce of our influence to forge this new form of inclusive government whose mission will be to arrest the decline, stabilize the state, forge reconciliation and cooperation, bring integrity to public office, and to introduce constitutional changes to comprehensively address and prevent real and perceived discriminatory practices, and executive lawlessness, and finally, to promote equal opportunity in wealth sharing and in the accessing of government services; be they in health, education, security, or other sectors. All Parliamentary Parties should be invited to form the new government. This was our stated principle in 2006, and it is important that it is repeated often.
It necessarily follows that we cannot run a campaign where we demonise the other parties and their candidates, as this not only causes us to conform to the mindset and behaviour of those who operate within that flawed matrix, and which we claim to be antithetical to the spirit of the new Guyana, but it also creates in us a false indignation as we pretend that we never came from the womb of these parties, and have nothing of them within us. Lastly, it goes without saying, that healing and reconciliation, and togetherness and cooperation, cannot arise after a bitter and acrimonious campaign; one in which we willing and fully participated in the bitterness and acrimony. To go this route, removes from us the ability to be regarded as the “bridge”, “broker” or “mediator.”