It has not taken long for there to be the beginnings of what was to be feared consequent to our President Granger unilaterally appointing Justice James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM; contravening our Constitution in letter, in spirit and in the face of nearly twenty-five years of effective practice; jettisoning the ‘qualities’ he himself advocated to our Leader of the Opposition (LOP); and reneging on his earlier offer for the two sides to meet to discuss modalities of going forward if he again found difficulty in choosing someone from the third list provided by our LOP. Our Guyana could be heading to an even greater polarization between our two major race groups. We must not let it happen. Fair minded Guyanese of African descent must stand against this departure from the Carter Formula.
Such a development was long anticipated and warned against. In his weekly column, ‘Future Notes’ of Wednesday 25th of October, Henry Jeffrey reviews the nearly year-long road we have trod. The whole column is worth reading and rereading – the quote below states what Jeffrey feared since the beginning of this year:
“So President David Granger’s rejection of the list submitted to him by the leader of the opposition on the grounds that ‘none of the candidates was a former judge or someone eligible to be appointed a judge’ is patently false and it must be deliberately so.”(SN: 18/01/2017)
“The question then arose as to what motivated the president to adopt this clearly false position and its implications for Guyana. —————— ‘If the intention of the government is to unilaterally select its own chairperson and it proceeds along this course, it will open an entirely new politically disruptive trajectory for Guyana’ (SN: 18/01/2017) And here we are today!”
How prophetic! And here we are today on that politically disruptive trajectory for Guyana. A number of Afro-Guyanese have been extolling and justifying our President’s actions with a misguided and pernicious racial spin. They claim that they are the defenders and protectors of Afro-Guyanese but they are mistaken. Paradoxically, in keeping Afro-Guyanese angry and unhappy, and with reduced joy and enthusiasm in life, they dampen their participation and reduce their prospects for success.
Recently, some dozen Rastafarians issued a press release entitled, “Rastafari Community of all Guyana Commends President On The Appointment Of Gecom Chairman”. The penultimate paragraph is revealing:
“Thus, of the six General and Regional Elections since the implementation of the Carter Formula, five have been chaired by a Guyanese of East Indian descent and one by a Guyanese of African Descent. For our sacred space and consciousness as a multi-racial society, we urge all Guyanese to embrace the appointment of Justice James Patterson, a Guyanese of African descent. This bodes well for ethnic relations within Guyana. We are in the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent.”
Perhaps because we Afro-Guyanese in the PPP/C know and have worked with a number of the twelve persons listed, we may be inclined to think that this is their honest, earnest, but incorrect view and so we put forward some obvious observations for their earnest and honest consideration:
1) The six previous Chairmen came out of a process which saw no dispute in the application of the Carter Formula, unlike Justice James Patterson who has been unilaterally appointed by our President Granger disputing and disregarding the Carter Formula.
2) There were a number of Afro-Guyanese on the lists presented by our LOP, so the desire was not simply for an Afro-Guyanese but one chosen by our President unilaterally. All Guyanese would support an Afro-Guyanese Chairman appointed according to the Carter Formula.
3) Are we to think that the unilateral appointment of an Afro-Guyanese as Chairman of Gecom, is in and of itself, the final desired end, or is it to be expected that it would facilitate and deliver what might be considered an Afro-Guyanese government?
Similarly motivated, but more damaging to our young, still embryonic nation, ACDA’s letter in the newspapers of October 27 teems with inaccuracies, parts of but not the whole story, misrepresentations when not misunderstandings, and intense anger. It wields a wide brush against the PPP and many others in our country – the Guyana Private Sector, the GHRA – but in its raw emotion it may have put on the table thoughts which our society may have sensed but which were hitherto kept off the table. The first two lines of ACDA’s letter indicates the kinds of ghosts that we, to be a nation and acting together as a nation, must look in the eyes and exorcise:
“The recent Constitutional appointment by his Excellency David Arthur Granger has publicly revealed what Africans in Guyana and the Caribbean all know. Indians do not want to be ruled by an African Leader.”
Many pages could flow from a
consideration of those two lines and a book from the whole letter. How true is their assertion? What are the foundations/boundaries/limits of any truth in it? Do we Africans in our turn want to be ruled by an Indian Leader? If anything, a number of Guyanese of African descent, pointing to our earlier arrival here and to us seeing Indians arriving here, may be even less disposed to being ruled by an Indian Leader, who they may see as a brother but a younger brother whose time has not yet come.
Many of us Guyanese are still to learn and accept in our bones that programmes and achievements are what should matter, not face and race. In a country like ours, good times and bad times reach us all – the choice of a leader, a President, should be less a matter of race. Many of the programmes of this Coalition Government, have been devastating on all of us Guyanese whatever our race. Our best hope whatever our race, is that at our National and Regional elections, the overwhelming portion of our electorate appraise the behaviour and performance of those individuals who canvass our votes and cast their votes for whoever brings a better life. We of the PPP/C ask for nothing more.
Guyanese of African descent should guard against and not be deterred from taking a stand against our President Granger’s departure from the Carter Formula, by the arguments that if wrong it is a small wrong to avoid a bigger wrong of the PPP/C winning the elections and regaining Office; that Guyanese of African descent who find themselves standing alongside the PPP (and the PPP/C) are selling out Afro-Guyanese; that the supporters of the PPP and the PPP/C do not think much of nor respect Guyanese of African descent. Those persons putting those arguments want to ensnare Guyanese of African descent for their own purposes. It has happened before and it put all Guyanese on that regrettable 1968 to 1992 trajectory.
Although they have been addressed a number of times before, allow me to address some issues which were the source of great contention at some time and which may still be used to discourage citizens, particularly Guyanese of African descent from taking a position similar to that of the PPP and the PPP/C:
1) Our housing programme offering undeveloped house lots instead of keys to finished homes in fully developed neighbourhoods: For many good reasons, we preferred to reach tens of thousands of our fellow citizens rather than a few hundred; and further, we motivated more than half of those to successfully save and invest in their properties – they became empowered. Allegations of discrimination in the awards of house lots were not justifiable as we had early adopted a lottery approach to allocation, and thus determined when and where the average person received his/her house-lot.
2) Our different handling of our bauxite and sugar sectors: We deviated from the agreements of the departed PNC in both cases, bauxite and sugar. We neither shut down bauxite nor sold off sugar, precipitately.
3) We refute the almost hysterical, and so far, baseless charges of a criminal narco state where hundreds of billions of dollars were corrupted from our national budget each year.
4) The low representation of African owned and/or led businesses particularly at the larger sizes: We the PPP/C, see this as largely following from the previous period when the PNC government nationalized, owned and managed about 85% of the formal economy, with Afro-Guyanese over represented amongst the employees of this public sector. Afro-Guyanese experienced a great shock and suffered much losses and changed circumstances when the ERP introduced in the late 1980s, reversed most that they had grown to accept and expect. We the PPP/C, have great hopes that a number of the Afro-Guyanese owned and led start-ups during our 23 years in office would be grown into large businesses of tomorrow.
5) We of the PPP/C, fear that our country is not ready for a fair, useful, healing discussion of Roger Khan and any phantoms, a regrettable development which inexorably followed from a number of Afro-Guyanese finding the prospect of and subsequent fact of a PPP/C win at our 1997 Elections totally unbearable, and consequently promoting and turning themselves into ‘Freedom Fighters’.
6) Concerning allegations that we, the PPP/C, were not even-handed during our 23 years in Office: We would point to the increases in the ownership of vehicles and of homes all across our country by persons of all races and religions as indicative of our success in improving the lives of our peoples and even-handedly so.
We of the PPP/C recognize and understand that becoming one people will challenge us all, every moment of every day and in every aspect of life. There will be times when even the best of us will falter. The road to the realization of our motto will include many twists and turns and any number of backslidings. In a number of ways we are again where we were in 1966 to 1968. Whilst it is not something to boast about, much is owed to Dr. Jagan and the PPP for keeping faith and hope in Guyana through many subsequent, difficult periods. Now, in 2017, we must urge no less from all of us Guyanese.
The challenge now for all Guyanese is to somehow avert this new particularly disruptive trajectory which our President Granger has thrust us on when he departed from the Carter Formula. Fair minded Guyanese of African descent, including those who support or intend to support PNC/APNU at our elections, must stand with others against this departure.
and other Guyanese of
African descent, members
and supporters of the PPP
and the PPP/C.