A highly speculative contribution by Mr. Manzoor Nadir about two weeks ago provided an analysis in support of the PPP/C that is so surprisingly flawed that I hope that party has gone beyond this kind of thinking. Manzoor was writing ‘concerning the advice by the Canadian Government, … telling the PPP/C Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali, not to travel to Canada.’
He argued that the High Commissioner of Canada ‘was given a tongue lashing by the Government of Guyana over the Charrandass Persaud matter … (and) What we are seeing by the Government of Canada is the policy of appeasement to the GoG and possibly bowing to the pressures of the “A” and the “B” (American and British governments)’ (SN:2/2/2019). ‘Appeasement’ is going too far, but for me too, the Canadian action signaled an attempt at reconciling the fallout from the Persaud affair. But what bedevilled me for a moment was how Manzoor expected trashing the above countries was going to be helpful to the PPP/C? Then I hit upon it: it is the very misconception that has the PPP/C in the deep predicament it is in today.
Mr. Nadir claimed that it is not ‘rocket science’ that America wanted to see the back of the PPP/C government and that the British High Commissioner who ‘is the worst British HC I have seen in my four decades in public life in Guyana’ does not like the PPP/C either. ‘However, as soon as he (the British HC) saw the PPP/C victory at the LGE polls there was an about-turn.’ I have argued in this column that LGE do not have the value of national elections and that given the almost opposite motivations of the PPP/C and PNCR supporters to go to the poll, the results of the LGE do not signal a big win for the PPP/C (SN:21/11/2018).
Nevertheless, assuming the LGE were a huge win for the PPP/C, does Manzoor Nadir actually believe that the ABC countries needed an LGE win to realise that the PPP/C is the most likely winner in a free and fair election in Guyana to a point where that win shocked the British into changing its policy towards the PPP/C? If he does, he had better remember that these countries have such a deep institutional memory that, more likely than not, they have a better understanding of what is taking place in Guyana than our own politicians. He should also note that for the West elections, though important, have only been a priority when they did not negatively affect fundamental interests. For example, when their interests were at stake, they supported rigged elections in Guyana for three decades and only facilitated a return to democratic rule and the PPP/C to office when it was not longer considered a threat.
It is no wonder then that Manzoor misread former US President Jimmy Carter’s words to President Jagdeo that he was not interested in elections, but ‘oil, economy and constitution reform’. He construed this as the former president being on some kind of a mission to secure Guyana’s newly found hydro-carbon wealth for American interests.
If Manzoor had been a bit more charitable, he might have considered giving Carter, who has been a long-term friend of Guyana and the PPP, the benefit of the doubt. If he did, he would have realised that in the present context of Guyana, he and the PPP/C should be giving less priority to elections. Instead, he should think about what will happen and maybe is already happening to the society, the economy and the oil if we do not have some kind of constitutional reform to safeguard them for the Guyanese people, and perhaps it is to this that Carter was hinting!
However, steeped in a majoritarian ideology, even one that kept it out of office for three decades and led to its disastrous attempt to establish some kind of an ‘ethnic democracy’, the PPP leadership cannot wrench itself from the mindset that the law must protect the implications of a majoritarian system regardless of what they are. It is as if the leaders of that party have never heard of the legendary Bob Marley: ‘there can be no peace without justice’.
It matters little who is right or wrong: when a sufficient number people believe that they are faced with injustice, law becomes secondary and there is usually political struggle and eventually war. At a practical level, this is what has occurred in, among others, Northern Ireland, where whatever the law may have said about Protestant majority rule, the minority Catholics, led by the Irish Republic Army, would have none of it and the ethnic debacle only came to an end after years of civil war in which hundreds were killed when a political compromise was arrived at which allowed both parties to equally share government.
A sufficiently significant section of Guyana’s population, essentially those of African ethnicity, believes that the PPP/C rule was tyrannical and they do not want to see it in government again. In the perception of these people, APNU+AFC arrived just in time and saved them from subjugation by wrenching power away from the PPP/C in 2015. Ask yourself PPP/C, in these circumstances, what would you have thought about majority rule, the law and the constitution?
Finding himself in a similar situation, Cheddi Jagan sought to make all kinds of constitutional proposals for power sharing but unfortunately neither he nor Forbes Burnham was in total control of the situation. Jagan’s socialist sympathies and the ethnic structure of the society that at the time could have allowed him to perpetuate himself in government meant that the West, like Africans today, did not want to see him close to government, and Burnham used this opening to his advantage.
The interest of the West in Guyana has now seriously abated (there is more oil in the world today than it can possibly utilise if we are not to contribute to sinking our neighbours), the structure of the society might have changed somewhat but is still essentially the same, the PPP/C blew its chances to use its period in government to sensibly reconcile the ethnic divide, and now the objections to its being in government have returned in the form of wholesale African resistance.
Unfortunately, there is no Cheddi Jagan to think out of the box and no Berlin Wall to collapse and offer even medium-term relief. The PPP/C is now in free-fall with its old mantra of free and fair elections that is unlikely to be of much help to it! Cheddi Jagan would by now have understood his context and propagated an equitable alternative strategy to win greater national and international support.
By this time, in the current political standoff, it is more likely that Carter would have been calling upon President David Granger to fulfill his manifesto promises with the implicit suggestion that his not doing so would lose him the support of the very people Manzoor has been trashing. Just as Desmond Hoyte did, Granger would have listened because, as Chris Ram showed last Saturday (SN: 9/2/2019), mechanisms exist if he attempts to illegally stay in office after the prescribed constitutional time has expired, and as the presidential situation in neighbouring Venezuela indicates, America’s warning has taken on a new dimension!