The WPA has to sound the warning bell or be smothered by its silence

Dear Editor,

We are now past the midway point of the APNU+AFC government in office. It is that time when the government is taking stock of its performance in office and actively preparing for the next elections. It is in this light that the firing of David Hinds and Lincoln Lewis as columnists must be examined.

There is a general consensus that both Hinds and Lewis were critics of the government, despite the fact that they were also supporters of the government, not unusual roles for these two persons with a long history in the political struggle of Guyana. They both were outspoken critics of the PPP/C government and worked for the removal of the PPP/C regime. There is a fundamental difference between critique and criticism. It is one thing to tell someone that their shoes need polishing in order to raise them up to a higher level. It is another thing to say that their shoes need polishing in order to ridicule them.

Hinds and Lewis should have been appreciated for the role they played in alerting the regime to the shortcomings of government policies, providing an invaluable service, one that the supporters of the regime did not perform, perhaps blinded by a narcissistic impulse of party loyalty gaining paramountcy over critical thinking.

It was rather ingenious for the AFC, several months ago, to claim that David Hinds was the beneficiary of the freedom that the present regime had fought for. The AFC obviously has no understanding of the historical struggle for Guyana’s freedom. Dr Hinds spent several years in Burnham’s prison in his effort to rid Guyana of a dictatorship. So did Tacuma Ogunseye. These men do not roll over and play dead in the struggle for democracy. They did not do it in the darkest of days, and it is unlikely that they will do so now.

What is not a self-evident truth is who was responsible for the firing of these two columnists from the state-owned Guyana Chronicle. There have been many readings of the tea leaves on this matter, and any gestalt psychologist will interpret the speculations with extreme caution.

Were the WPA totally compliant with the government in terms of lauding all of its efforts in governing, it would have been welcomed as a dutiful member of the government. Unfortunately, the WPA is burdened with its history of fighting against the PNC dictatorship, and is held to a higher standard than the other political parties. This is expected as a birthright, given the assassination of its leader Dr Walter Rodney, and other activists that lost their lives in the struggle against the PNC dictatorship.

The WPA has been subjected to some of the most scathing attacks by members of the ‘democratic’ community, because of the high standard that it has been held to. It has become a victim of the double standards of the Guyanese community. On the one hand the WPA is expected to lead the struggle for democracy. On the other hand, the electorate has steadfastly refused to empower the WPA in any meaningful way. This could very simply be explained as the rationality of a race-based electoral process.

If the assault on David Hinds is symptomatic of the contempt for the WPA by the PNC and the AFC, it is a foregone conclusion that the current government seems convinced that the criticism by the WPA and its members is a serious liability in the forthcoming elections. Tacuma Ogunseye’s historical analysis is rather enlightening, and he made the point that the WPA was accepted into APNU not as a ‘silent’ partner, but one with an uncompromising record of struggle against censorships of all kind.

Given several electoral terms of the PPP, the WPA claimed that in the name of democracy, it took the ‘poison tablet’ of aligning itself with the reformed PNC in the APNU platform. The subsequent removal of the PPP/C meant that Guyana had had enough of racial politics, enough to test the waters under an APNU+AFC government. It would be unfair not to give the WPA some credit for its bold move. Again, as Ogunseye has clearly stated, the WPA never compromised on its democratic agenda.

The WPA, having fought to remove the PPP/C and to bring the APNU+AFC regime into power, was expected to give the government some time to get its act together. Ogunseye noted that in the aftermath of the 2015 elections, the APNU grouping never met to have any discussions regarding governance. During this period, many decisions were taken without consultation with the WPA, despite having troubling consequences for the WPA. The WPA’s exclusion from the decision-making process reached a crisis level last year, leading to an emergency meeting being held. There was much hype after the meeting, but time has revealed that it was just that, hype.

The WPA is left with no choice but to sound the warning bell, or be smothered by its silence if it does not rebel or revolt against its treatment by the current government. Three years is enough time to test the goodwill of the government towards the WPA. It could not be expected to attack the government from day one if it felt maltreated, despite the debacle concerning the shutting down of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry. It had to give the government enough time to have a track record that could be critically examined. It has done so for the past three years, and has paid a terrible price in the process. But it cannot remain silent if it is to remain alive as a viable political entity.

We are at a point in the life of the present government where there is a public outcry for the WPA to remain true to its Rodneyite agenda, for it not to betray the legacy of its assassinated leader. This is a remarkable moment in Guyana’s historical development. Is it possible that this is the historical moment that the WPA has struggled for?

The results of the 2015 elections were extremely close. The current government will have to decide if it can dispense with the WPA as useless baggage and ‘forge’ ahead without it. The idea that every vote counts is no longer a foregone conclusion, at least not from the perspective of those who seek to silence the voice of the WPA.

The point worth pondering is this. Had the WPA not played the role it has played during the past three years, would there have been an outcry for it to stand up and fight for its agenda of democratizing the nation? Is it a sign of the times that demands are being made of the WPA to continue to lead Guyana out of its tribal politics?

Yours faithfully,

Rohit Kanhai

WPA Overseas Member (WPAOA)

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