Guyana must never allow return of authoritarian rule – Ramkarran

-warns about oil wealth becoming political football

The lesson of the restoration of democracy in  October 1992 is that Guyana must never allow the return of authoritarian rule, according to commentator Ralph Ramkarran SC.

Writing on the significance of October in the political history of the country, Ramkarran said that “Many argue that (former President Desmond) Hoyte made a mistake by conceding free and fair elections. Others whisper that ‘we must never allow what happened in October 1992 to happen again.’ We must stand guard at the gates of freedom to ensure that such forces do not gain entry”.

Political analysts have stated that Hoyte had come under severe pressure from elements in his party, the People’s National Con-gress (PNC) not to yield to democratic reforms under the aegis of the Atlanta, Georgia, US-based Carter Center. He had also been canvassed not to concede that the PNC had lost the October 5, 1992 general elections. He however conceded and there was a democratic transition.

The PNC is the major component of  A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), the major partner in the governing alliance. Several senior PPP/C leaders have expressed fears that the next general elections could be rigged. They have also pointed to the delay in naming a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission as adding to these concerns.

Discussing the suspension of the constitution in October 1953 after the PPP had been in government for just months,  Ramkarran, a former two-term Speaker of the National Assembly, said: “For reasons that are well known, the unity did not last, and the division led inevitably to severe ethno-political discord thereafter. The political divisions and discord which were a direct consequence of the suspension in 1953 has created a permanent scar of ethno-political instability which has dominated political debate since then. Shortly after the split in the PPP in 1955, voices began to be heard, and efforts began to be made to retrieve some sort of political unity. Most were aware then, and it has been proven by events since, that Guyana will not realise its full potential until the ethno-political division is moderated, which is possible without there being any losers. Unless this happens, our oil wealth will become a political football.”

He added that the years since 1992 have proved that progress can only be made in Guyana if democracy is sustained and nurtured.

“They have also proved that although it takes time, and will take some more, ethno-political domination will not always win out. PNC supporters expressed their disapproval of their party in 2006 with significant numbers supporting the AFC. Supporters of the PPP expressed their disapproval of their party in 2011, and to a lesser extent in 2015, with  significant numbers supporting the AFC. The PNCR proved in 2015 that a creative coalition in the right political conditions can negate ethno-political rigidities. Only a democratic culture will permit          such new formations and encourage innovative debate”, he said.

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