I refer to Dr. David Hinds’ column published in Stabroek News on April 17, 2018: captioned, “Guyana Review – Politics: Nowhere near enough”. In that column Hinds, in examining the performance of the APNU+AFC coalition government since it came to office in 2015, raised some pertinent issues, which no political leadership in the context of Guyana’s political reality, can ignore. However, it is my fear, that is exactly what the response of the APNU+AFC leadership to Hinds’ observations and I believe, his constructive criticisms, will be. The basis of my apprehension and concern reside in my experiences with how political matters have been dealt with in the APNU and the coalition government.
I will submit here that any objective observer, more so, one whose interest is seeing the coalition government re-elected in the 2020 general and regional elections, is very likely to support this position when it is borne in mind there exists among some supporters of the coalition, a view, that the government, in the first three years of its tenure in office, has underperformed. The judgement of those supporters is that even though the coalition can do better it is beyond the ability of those in the leadership of the coalition to recognize the reality of the situation and the need for urgent action to remedy it.
The observation made by Hinds, ”..that the APNU+AFC coalition election victory represents a historical moment in Guyanese post-colonial politics“, cannot be disputed. Even the PPP/C would agree on this matter. However, consensus dissipates when we seek to define the parameters of the “historical moment”. While half of the country that supported the coalition saw the defeat of the PPP/C as representing a grand historical moment for a new Guyana, the other half of the country saw it differently. For that section of the populace, political change was unwelcome and was seen as a nightmare. In light of the two opposing positions of these large blocks, the question that needs to be addressed is not whether the defeat of the PPP/C represented a historical moment. but whether the contradictions in the society had matured sufficiently, and what the polarised elections results meant for the transformation of the nation.
I must admit that I have no knowledge of discussions, which may have been held within the APNU or the coalition, nor did I participate in any (if they were held), to examine the possibilities the election victory would have opened-up for the transformation of Guyana. Transformation in this discussion, must not be confused with the consciousness desire, and commitment of the coalition leadership to do better than the PPP/C had done. Transformation in this sense is qualitatively different than simply wanting to do better than the previous regime.
I am referring here to the need for profound policy actions and a pointed vision, aimed at transforming the old order, based on the assessment of the balance of social and political forces in the country at the time. I am talking about political actions, guided by an understanding of the historical moment. I will be surprised if anyone in the APNU or, in the APNU+AFC coalition leadership will contradict me by saying that these profound discussions have, and are taking place within the corridors of both the APNU and the larger coalition.
Even in the absence of discussions in the APNU, coalition, and government, on the above, it is a reasonable expectation, that the leaders were aware that their success at the polls opened possibilities for meaningful change. It is my strongly held view that Hinds’ criticisms of the government shortchanging itself and the nation, by its performance to date, are indisputable and timely.
Comrade Hinds seems to be over-optimistic, in his expectations, and the capacity of the APNU+AFC to address the historic race/political divide. If truth be told the APNU+AFC was anticipating something of a “landslide victory” at the elections. The close result was a shock and a disappointment that subsequently knocked out the political will of APNU+AFC leaders to adopt an aggressive political course to bring about the needed change. They allowed themselves to become prisoners of the election results and retreated into conservatism, which is responsible for the present situation that David Hinds so ably explained.
Given the election results and the controversy surrounding it, the known history of the negative effects of PPP’s criminalisation of the state, the depths of its corruption of the society, its covenant with Roger Khan and the executions of Guyanese citizens, the unprecedented transfer of wealth to the Indian community, the authoritarian nature of the state. and the high expectations of the APNU+AFC support base for social/economic and political justice, presented challenges the new leadership proved unable, incapable of or downright refuse to deal with.
It is my contention that there were two options available to the coalition in this situation viz:
To use its mandate to aggressively dismantle the criminalized state, forcing major contradictions to mature, with the social/political consequences, in doing so shifting the political struggle in the direction of transformation; and
The evolutionary approach (the time game) which was the option chosen by the APNU+AFC leadership. The inherent nature of this approach is essentially anti-transformation, i.e. in the context in which the word is used in this narrative.
It is a well-established fact that in life and politics every action or inaction has consequences. The government’s ambivalence over the last three years is the direct result of the decision it took, consciously or unconsciously, to embrace the evolutionary approach in addressing Guyana’s post-2015 election challenges. In so doing it became a prisoner of the old order, constrained by the institutions and political culture of that order.
That decision proved to be a failed approach, and that failure is best demonstrated by the present untenable political situation in the country, where the discussions among the masses, across the political divide, are focused on the view that there is no difference between the present government and that of the PPPC of twenty-three years duration.
For the record, I disagree with this perception. I believe an objective examination of the government’s performance since coming to office suggests something quite different. But this negative political situation is as a result of the consequences of evolutionary politics, missteps (that could have been avoided}, and the practice of the cabinet making and executing policies and in the process, usurping the role of the parties.
Troubling as the above perception of the government is the more worrying concern politically, is whether the APNU+AFC leadership has the ability to change course, in time, to allow it to take actions to negate the political apprehensions among its supporters.
Dr. David Hinds with his good intention, may for some time be a voice in the “wilderness”.