Mention the names of our parliamentary political parties, anywhere in this country, and watch how citizens react.
These parties trigger partisan, biased, emotive and irrational tones from the citizenry.
It seems as if each Party goes out of the way to popularize its image, its brand, as a partisan force guaranteeing power only to its section of the population, its tribe.
Mention the name of the ruling party, the People’s Progressive party (PPP) and feel the resentment and criticism from sections of the population, while supporters voice vehement votes for “our” PPP.
Mention APNU, with its promising vision in the name, A Partnership for National Unity, and the same divisive reaction shows up, with many citizens condemning it as the enemy, and many others supporting it as the ideal future.
And there’s the Alliance For Change, another attempt at bringing together our society as one people, one nation, with one destiny. The AFC now provokes as much divisive reaction as the PPP, PNC or APNU.
Both Opposition parties, as their names reflect, embrace the idea inherent in our motto: one people, one nation, one destiny. For decades we recited this motto in our schools every morning before classes start. Most of us grew up with this motto ingrained in our psyche.
But then we look out to the society, and see our leaders bicker and fight and quarrel in acrimony and strife and clash in verbal crassness.
At Parliament, we watch, now on TV, as our suited leaders throw the Guyanese national motto aside to make their partisan point to the perceived enemy across the polished aisle.
Our political culture got formed starting with the well-known political fallout between Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan, in the 1950’s. This petty, divisive culture continues to dictate how our nation develops, today, in the 21st century.
In the AFC and APNU we see the semblance of an effort at attacking the problem. The fringe parties that coalesced with Burnham’s People’s National Congress, to form APNU, sacrificed their egos to mark a new path forward.
The AFC made the most promising attempt to chart a new course with its formation for the 2006 elections, but not only has it failed to live up to its enormous promise to the Guyanese people, but it has fallen into much disrepair in its vision.
With Raphael Trotman and Khemraj Ramjattan, Guyanese all over the world, not only in the homeland, saw a dynamic new horizon take shape. A new excitement built in the nation’s body politic. Then, leaders like Moses Nagamootoo, and many others, broke from the old conformist and stultifying moulds to join this new movement.
Now, however, the AFC and APNU provoke as much divisive debate among citizens as the old dinosaur at the ironically named Freedom House – where selecting the Party Leader and Executive Committee power-brokers remains a closed-door mystery to the public.
We’ve always placed enormous faith in political parties to develop our nation, to show us the way, to define us and provide us with sound leaders.
Civic society always plays a secondary role, with the Guyanese Action for Reform and Democracy (GUARD) being the most active and vocal, for a short period leading up to the ground-breaking 1992 elections.
Civic society always gravitates to one or the other of the political parties to play its role, with the PPP embracing a Civic arm, the PNC a Reformed section, and the AFC attracting widespread non-political support in its campaign for “change” in our political culture.
We see folks like Ralph Ramkarran, Anand Goolsarran, Clive Thomas and Henry Jeffrey, and others, move to a non-political role, taking on the responsibility of building a solid civic voice in the society. These could not have played such a role without the platform that the Stabroek News provides for independent thinkers in this country.
We see this semblance of civic activism, with token efforts from the national business organizations, unions and advocacy groups.
And we see the independent private Media playing a role in providing a platform for citizens to engage and voice their feelings and thoughts.
But our society remains very much highly politicized. We place our faith in politicians, the Government, and our political leaders. We look to parliament to make the defining difference, and when we see failure there, we blame Government, with its bureaucratic inefficiency, dictatorial Presidency and opaque closed-door cabinet.
Our political leaders, however, keep falling out of sync with what we want as a Guyanese nation. We really do want to be one people and one nation, with one destiny. In village after village in this country, citizens of different ethnic make-up, religion and political belief work together, inter-marry, share social space, and talk the same language.
The streets of our nation showcase an admirable and exemplary mosaic of multiculturalism. Our society works at a level of multicultural sophistication that supersedes even Toronto in Canada or New York in the US.
In New York or Toronto, it’s quite common to see ethnic groups of a single persuasion, and when school gets out at 3 pm, school kids even congregate largely based on their ethnic background.
In Guyana, our homeland, we have actually achieved a very, very high, sophisticated level of multicultural oneness.
All this seems lost on our political culture, where the body politic takes on a warped, dysfunctional mindset that leaves us as a people stunted and invalid, disabled in the very core of our being.
PPP, AFC or APNU are but abstract organizations. They do not build their own image. These entities become monsters because of the leaders who control them. These leaders project to the Guyanese citizenry a dysfunctional political organization that is partisan, divisive and tribal.
Our political leaders lack integrity in aligning their political goals with who we are as a people, with our national motto, the Guyanese vision, the Guyana Dream: One people, One nation, One destiny.
Even the promising AFC now falls into this disastrous abyss.
Civic society must become vocal in demanding that our political party leaders show integrity and align themselves with our national vision, the motto that guides us as a people unique in the annals of Mankind as the Guyanese nation.