Let’s look at our nation along its historical curve. From our formation as a people welded together in the fiery furnace of harsh, back-brukin’ labour on broiling-sun agro-estates, we today struggle to forge the Guyanese way of being.
We came together, an illiterate, undeveloped people, with the whip of the British Massa hanging with menacing meaning over our sun-burnt backs, and joined hardened, tough, gnarled hands to demand self-identity from those who forged us together.
Our nation bonded under this common beginning, forged with rice, rum, sugar and then bauxite.
So when we united in wondrous harmony in 1966 to board a plane, our leaders Dr Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham and their team hand in hand, to go to England for our national Independence, we had achieved that Guyana Dream pledge of our Motto: One People, One Nation, One Destiny.
When Venezuela massed its soldiers along our Essequibo borders, we embraced each other to guard the Guyanese homeland, pledging not to give up one blade of grass.
From that day on May 26, 1966 to now, we’ve knitted ourselves into a social fabric, but now filled with all sorts of irrational myths.
The myth of our differences, which so early rent asunder our leaders Burnham and Jagan, and saw our intellectual hero, Dr Walter Rodney, killed in a bomb blast, soon took over to distract us from the goal of not only freeing ourselves as a people from the logie and village shack, but also the goal of developing our local communities and capital city.
The myth drove deep wedges into our common identity, and so over the past 48 years we drifted from a nation in the global Commonwealth of promising potential, to one today of enormous divides, defined with strife, acrimony and verbal feuds of gross irrationality.
Let’s choose to ignore the ethnic insecurities, with the severe impact of, for example, the ‘60’s violence and ongoing political suspicions.
We started believing myths that we today take for inalienable truth. We believe that instead of being one people, one nation with one destiny, we are made up of different ethnic, religious and ideological enclaves. We believe that we must guard our enclave, our group, our tribal clan. We believe that the “others” are enemies.
Such myths, utterly based on division and groupthink, whatever the external forces that fuelled them, as detailed in released information about our nation from the United States government, or in Dr Jagan’s book West On Trial, today leaves us a people poor, under-developed and lacking cohesion, unity, harmony and a national Guyana Dream, a galvanizing strategic vision of what it means to be Guyanese.
What’s the impact?
Today, the ruling party, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), with strong alliance with leaders of the defunct Guyanese Action for Reform and Democracy (GUARD) movement, in N.K. Gopaul and Sam Hinds, refuses to urgently hold local government elections.
This is the same party that advocated and became activist, over a stunning 28 years, locally and internationally, for free and fair elections.
When GUARD joined the fight in 1992, gathering national forces to demand the PPP have its day at the ballot box, we as a nation had come together to solve a crushing problem.
Since the 1960’s, in fact before Independence, the People’s National Congress (PNC), under the iron hand of Burnham, backed by the US government, had ruled with stolen elections. President Desmond Hoyte was to preside over seven years of such rule, until October 5, 1992 when the current party won our first free and fair elections since Independence.
Let’s be real about the state of our nation.
We foster divisions because we retreat into groupthink, seeing the opposing Parliamentary party as the enemy who destroys the nation.
When the PNC ruled, our nation saw significant progress, in roads, electricity, education, and especially in forging a national Guyanese identity, including on the international scene, playing leadership roles in CARICOM, the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned Movement.
But the rule was marred with severe deformities, like kick-down-the-door bandits, allegedly members of the army. We saw massive corruption within the State. We witnessed political assassinations and violations of human rights, including a lack of press freedom. We had to live with severe economic hardships, and European-descended Guyanese fled this country in droves for the US, England and Canada. We read the Auditor General’s report of billions of dollars leaking out of the State Treasury, and did nothing about it. Laws were passed to strip Parliament of its true power, and to entrench power in a few elite politicians.
This is a fact of our history.
These past 20 years, we saw this ruling party, the PPP, act with incomprehensible hypocrisy, violating all its values and principles that it espoused when in Opposition. This party inherited a corrupt State system, and over 20 years did nothing about it. But the most damning indictment against the PPP is its schizophrenia about local government elections.
The PPP can blame the PNC all it wants, and the lacklustre Opposition can blame the Government all they want. Blame won’t solve our debilitating problems as a nation.
In fact, the PPP must recognize that had the US not imposed on the PNC to rig elections, we may very well have been a communist country today, a la Cuba. That’s a historical fact, and a context that we must take into consideration, if we are to surmount our deformities to build this nation.
The Opposition cannot sit around flinging words of condemnation and disgust at Government, either. The PPP fought for us for 28 years. We cannot forget that.
While we see the PNC recognizing its shortcomings and humbling itself to be subsumed into A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), and the Alliance For Change (AFC) advocating for a new way of being for the nation, we see the PPP, despite its 28 years of sanctimonious rhetoric, betraying all it stood for, its values and principles.
So let’s be real. Let’s recognize our historical truths, seeing the full Guyana context, and embrace the common identity that forged us together as the Guyanese nation.