Any new political movement must confront the race issue

Dear Editor,

In light of their disappointment with the political behaviour of the AFC which seems to have been fused with or morphed into the PNC, several individuals of integrity have indicated a willingness, or are encouraging others, to start a new political party or movement away from the two dominant race-based parties. I applaud those who wish to plunge into the troubled water of Guyana politics. We need such courage and of course movement towards a new clean politics rather than the discredited one of the past. Those who think of starting or entering into a new political force must be encouraged as we need a new breed of politicians who seek to provide real representation of people away from self.

But there are important questions that a new third party will have to confront. The big question is will people trust a new third party in light of the AFC shattering their dreams of a new politics away from race, and one that will be based on integrity? A related question is will a new party be a force to reckon with in light of our legacy of race politics and the betrayal of the polity by the AFC which started out as a non-racial movement but has been absorbed by a race-based party. Others tried and failed until the AFC came to the fore. Another serious question is will a new third party or movement be able to cobble together a party apparatus for political mobilization, and can it truly represent the aspiration of those voters who are not racially affiliated. Or will this dream of a non-racial politics, which people like me have fought for all our lives, simply fade away just like that of the AFC? The latter is an important question given that any new movement will come up against the jagged edges of the race-based electoral juggernauts that will accuse it of seeking to sell out their race. The attacks against a new movement will be geared towards denying votes to third parties.

Seeking to win over votes in Guyana is indeed frustrating. Both the PNC and PPP have been very successful at populist mobilization using race directly and in coded messages. Both purposefully used the motifs of ethnic identity and adroitly deployed it into a practical political mobilisation which so far has attracted a gullible people who fall for race-baiting. But one must not give up hope for a credible third party or make no effort to change our politics.

To succeed, any new political movement must confront the race issue. A political movement must focus on assuaging the fears of the races by guaranteeing power-sharing among the ethnic groups and the parties. It is important that people feel they will be represented in government regardless of which party is in control of the institutions of the state. A new politics requires that all parties share in governance through the composition of the cabinet and positions representing their percentage share of the votes. Such a concept of power-sharing will encourage people to trust a new third party.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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