The chairperson of the People’s National Congress Reform, Ms. Volda Lawrence, has rightly been taken to task for the statement she delivered to the Region Four District Conference of her party a week or so ago. Notwithstanding her apology to ‘those whom I have offended in one way or another’, it is well known that the political perspective she exhibited is prevalent within the two major political parties in Guyana. Indeed, the only problem a good chunk of this country has with her is that sufficient care was not taken to prevent the statement from getting into the public domain. The General Secretary of the PPP, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, as his position required, was quick to condemn Ms. Lawrence, but emanating from a similar mind-set and perhaps even more dangerous, was his 2015 outburst at Babu John, which resulted in him being hauled before the court and in the Media Monitoring Unit of the Guyana Elections Commission concluding that his so-called ‘anecdotal illustration … came over as a calculated exploitation, for political purposes, of the known fears and insecurities of one section of the population – East Indians.’ Mr. Jagdeo was too brash to apologise but in any case only his side, the side that now largely condemns Ms. Lawrence, would have believed him!
Ms. Lawrence is an ethnic entrepreneur who lives in a permanently (very long term) deformed liberal democratic state. Two parties control over 75% of the voters and she is chairperson of one of them and does what is necessary to keep her base solid and ready even if this means skirting the boundaries of the law. Countries ethnically configured the way Guyana is breed this type of people who view power as a zero-sum game – them and us – and construct, nourish and exploit ethnic concerns in the attempt to keep their side perennially in control of the state. The political people in such countries tend to publicly proclaim adherence to liberal values but since their reality is made substantially different by their deformity, if they act upon important liberal proposals, e.g. ‘we will democratise or privatise the state media’, the results are likely to negatively affect their ethnic mobilisation goals, so in practice they are forced to behave contrary to what is required for the gradual development of a liberal democratic state. Ms. Lawrence’s behaviour falls into that category and is not new: utilising state resources to win compliance and votes, for example, is now a national pastime.
The deformity of which I speak is not benign or useful in any way and in general terms there is a near national consensus that the caustic political relations to which it leads have largely been responsible for Guyana’s poor condition. Ms. Lawrence’s charge, even to the lowest level of the state, provides an opportunity for us to view how costly, illiberal and deceptive this deformity could be. ….