It is no shame if Amerindians decide they want to form a party that speaks to their interests and is concerned about bringing to the fore and correcting historical problems Amerindians suffered, and it is not there just to grab power, says political activist and commentator Dr David Hinds.
“From the standpoint of self-determination in an ethnically-divided society, I see nothing wrong with Amerindians deciding they want a political party that speaks to their interest”, he said.
He would welcome an indigenous party that is committed to a government of national unity and national consensus, he said, “because then it would play an important role in Guyanese politics.”
He made the comments to Stabroek News in response to the idea of the formation of a party by Indigenous Peoples which was thrown into the public domain by Lenox Shuman, National Toshaos Council’s vice chairman and former toshao of Pakuri.
Historically, he said, Indian Guyanese tend to vote for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and African Guyanese for the People’s National Congress. In the case of the Amerindians, he noted that parties of other ethnicities have spoken for them, whether it was the United Force, PNC, PPP and the Working People’s Alliance.
The PPP and the PNC, in whatever formations they come, he said, are not going to champion the cause of national unity because whenever they had the power to bring the country together they did not.
“If you have an Amerindian party that has a critical mass of support, it would mean that would deny the two parties an absolute hold on power. That could then drive them to come to the table to begin to talk about a government of national unity.”
The country is not going anywhere as a single-party government and coalition governments have been dominated by one party, he added.
However, there would be challenges an Indigenous Peoples party would face and one of them, he said, would be hostilities from the two major parties that are banking on the Amerindian vote to win the 2020 general elections.
They would also have to deal with the charge that they are contributing to the ethnic divide in the country, he said. Even though Guyanese would question the reference to their ethnicity instead of just being called Guyanese, he said, they still vote for their ethnic party.
Differing on the charge that they contribute to the ethnic divide, Hinds said, from a logical point of view, parties in Guyana started off as ethnically grounded.
“This Amerindian party with this critical mass in the centre could play that pivotal role in bringing this country together but they will have to want to do so because you can have an Amerindian party that joins the rat race.”
Seeing an Amerindian-based party as a third force, he said, many Indian and African Guyanese and others do not want anything to do with the rat race of the other two parties but they are forced to take sides. The Alliance for Change (AFC) in recent times and the United Force (UF), he said, both sided with one party.
If he were to advise those thinking about forming a party, he said, “I would advise them to make it very clear that their major concern would be bringing the country together.”
Hinds added: “I would advise them against joining a coalition with one side because they will end up in the same position as the AFC or UF. There should only be a coalition when all sides come together, a genuine national consensus Government that includes both PPP and PNC and other forces. Joining with one side will nullify the objective of national unity.”
Guyanese on the coastland are generally consumed by the conversations between Africans and Indians, he said, “but we forget that poverty is rife in Amerindian communities, that dispossession of lands have been longstanding problems of Amerindians, that Amerindians live in the country that is most backward as far as infrastructure is concerned, and as far as the social relations with the rest of the society is concerned.”
“As we move into the era of big oil,” he said, “Guyana is crying out for national unity. If an Amerindian party is of that mindset, then it would do Guyana a very important favour.”
There are challenges associated with the benefits of oil, he said “but at the political level, we are not ready to meet those challenges. If a party emerges that could lead a movement towards a national consensus, it could put us in better stead to meet those challenges.”