Letters . . .
We take exception to your editorial captioned "Two challenges" (25.6.2001) wherein you declared that, "when...ROAR or any other group rages against crime they must in the same breath and just as vehemently condemn extra judicial killings and other law enforcement maladies". ROAR has always pointed out the need for the police and other institutions to work within the law and we challenge you to produce any statement where we have even hinted otherwise.
terms of "law enforcement maladies" ROAR itself was launched as an Initiative
on January 1999 to highlight the need for effective police action against the
wave of murders that had swept across Guyana during 1998. Rather than simply "raging"
we announced the following recommendations towards improving the effectiveness
of the Force must not be equated simply with improved weaponry. The bottom line
is that the GPF must be reoriented in its mission away from its authoritarian
roots towards operating in a democracy: to alter its focus from serving the state
to serving the Guyanese citizens. This will necessitate a change both in the culture
and organization of the Force, which must not be confined to a token recruiting
of ordinary ranks, but a
Security, like power, (and they are most intimately related), is never distributed equally in a multi?ethnic state unless there is a deliberate strategy, plan and the will to achieve this. The genuine resolution of any ethnic conflict, in Guyana or elsewhere, will have to entail the reassessment and reorganization of the police as follows:
1) Balancing the Force:
To address the security concerns of the Indians and Amerindians, the GPF must be ethnically balanced. This was the recommendation of a team from the International Commission of Jurists as far back as 1965. They had been invited by Burnham to demonstrate that he was going to address the ethnic security concerns of the Indians. The team noted the historical reasons which ensured that Indians would be underrepresented in the GPF and recommended that to correct this imbalance, which was vitally necessary for the stability of the country, 75% of all new recruits be drawn from the Indian community until such a time that parity was achieved. Burnham never implemented this proposal and the issue has festered. This recommendation must be stated as the official policy of the Force immediately, and implementation must also begin immediately. Amerindians must also be recruited in proportion to their numbers in the population.
GPF was centralized so that it could most efficiently be used in a militaristic
manner, with overwhelming and deadly force, in responding to real or imagined
threats to the powers that be. To "read the riot act" was not just a
figure of speech in Guyana, but one that struck fear in the minds of most citizens
after dozens of Indians were shot down in cold blood between 1872 and 1948. The
centralized structure of the GPF has led to widespread ineffectiveness and dislocations.
Administrative effectiveness is not the sole test of Police competence, which
should rather be the greatest effort in the promotion of the rule of law and entrenching
citizens' security. We recommend that the GPF be split into six separate forces:
3) Supplementing the Force:
a) Community Police:
A vigilant citizenry is an integral aspect of citizens' security. Community policing must be further institutionalized and integrated into the structure and everyday operations of the Force. Budgetary allocations must be provided to address the materiel and human resource needs.
The Guyana People's Militia must be resuscitated and revitalized. It will provide a reserve for the Guyana Defence Force and a pool of disciplined men and women in each community who would have been trained in weaponry, quick response to discourage the "kick down the door" bandits who thrive on the fact that the communities they prey on are, not surprisingly, unused to the overwhelming display of force utilized by the former.
4) Streamlining the Force:
Only approximately 30% of the Force is engaged in crime detection and prevention.
a) Remove G Department:
G Department handles internal security, Immigration and passports and Registration of Aliens and, as is apparent from even a cursory consideration of these tasks, were meant to use the Police in a totalitarian way to keep tabs and control over the citizenry. These tasks should be farmed out to other institutions or made independent.
b) Hire more civilians: Many of the routine tasks of the Force, such as clerical paperwork, can be handled by civilians, leaving the highly trained Police free for more Police functions.
c) Training Private Guards: Remove the requirement that private guards must all receive their training from the Police Force. The Police Training Resources are overtaxed as it is. The GDF is a much better equipped institution, without the added burden of day to day demands on all their time and resources, to perform their tasks.
d) Police Prosecutors: Remove the role of Prosecutors from the Police Force and delegate it to Public Prosecutors Offices established for each of the six Police Forces. The present Public Prosecutor's office should serve Metro-Georgetown. This arrangement, in addition to adding to the focus of the Force on Policing activities, will bring greater professionalism to the prosecution of wrongdoers who are in the position to employ sophisticated lawyers.
Near Term Recommendations
We note that the constraints on the Police Force are not unique to institutions in Guyana, and in fact they are typical. It was the responsibility of those in charge of the Force to formulate plans detailing needs and resource requirements.
1) Establish a commission comprising of competent professionals, including some from the Police Force, with the mandate to draft a plan for the reorganizing and reorientation of the Police Force taking submissions from the general citizenry such as the present document.
2) Shake up the upper echelons of the Police Force, which has not shown itself capable of providing leadership with the vision and initiative that has been needed for so many years. The present Commissioner and his deputy should be asked to resign and some younger officer with the necessary qualities appointed.
3) Appoint the Crime Chief as a Deputy Commissioner from the Assistant Commissioner level at which he is presently ranked. Fund and enhance the intelligence unit of the Criminal Investigation Department since this is crucial to the prevention of crimes and the speedy apprehension of criminals.
4) Increase the salary scale of the Police Force but simultaneously demand a much higher level of professionalism and discipline than is presently displayed.
5) Improve the equipment and material capacity of the Force in all areas but especially in weaponry, communications and surveillance.
6) Boost the Training Facility of the woefully inadequate one of the Force with personnel on secondment from the UN Police as was done in Haiti or from the US or Britain.
7) Establish a GPF Internal Affairs Bureau that has some members drawn from outside the Police Force, also includes citizen's representatives. This body must be given the necessary teeth to vigorously root out corruption and graft. It should also address the harassment of Indian recruits and officers that is presently rampant in the Force.
8) Enact Legislation that defines the "kick down the door" banditry as a specific felony with a mandatory life sentence on conviction when there are no deaths, and a mandatory death sentence for all gang members if any victim was killed in the course of any such attacks. This should be a non-bailable offence.
9) Embark immediately on a recruitment drive especially in underrepresented Police minority areas (Indians and Amerindians), on the lines of the recently concluded Urban Job Fair held at Sophia by the Empowerment Czar.
10) Review and adapt the present conditions in the Police Training School and Barracks as it relates to the customs, food and religion etc. of Indians and Amerindians.
11) Discontinue the use of military patrols immediately: they are an indication that the state has failed and are more of an intimidation to innocent citizens, especially Indians, than a deterrent to criminals.
12) Decentralize recruitment: All three stages in the recruitment process should be conducted in the separate counties to facilitate the recruits to whom Georgetown, where the last two interviews are conducted, is a foreign territory.
13) Enact legislation to require that all deportees who were returned for criminal activities, report for a specified period, on a regular basis to the Police as a Parole system and their movements monitored electronically.
14) Improve the system for the issuance of firearms, which is presently characterized by partiality and inconsistencies.
15) Invite the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), to establish a presence in Guyana and to assist in establishing, recruiting, training and maintaining an Anti?Drug Agency here to address the burgeoning drug trafficking trade.
This idea of power sharing that is being mooted by many as a means of eradicating the impasse which had led to so much strife and destruction has to be fully examined before we can take any steps which might lead eventually to a system which is totally undesirable.
No system can be flawless, but the Westminster type of government has been tried and tested by so many democracies, and it is only when politicians act in an immature and selfish manner that those problems come up. This method by which there is always a vibrant opposition which is so strong that they can always have a chance to get into government themselves must be the ideal way of providing checks and balances in the administration of power in the state. If we project this power sharing approach, then we will come to a scenario where the power sharers, without a substantial opposition, will soon be acting in consort in perpetuating their respective parties to the detriment of those citizens whom they perceive do not support them. This is a very real danger in Guyana where we even now see the two main parties, from the designing of the electoral system right down to dialogue, acting on a basis of "one for you, one for me".
I would also like to again suggest that we make a concerted effort to break this tradition of racial voting, using the impending NDC elections as a testing pad for the evolution of a new system. One way of getting this expedited is by inviting nomination of independent candidates in the list of every council, and special efforts must be made to facilitate this, eg., placing a lid on the amount of money to be spent on any campaign, and central government providing a part of the campaign fund for every candidate.
Lastly, and by no means least, I have observed that there are many who are advocating that the President should be making his decision without any references to his party and other advisers, even to the composition of the Cabinet, and other major issues. Are we not encouraging the making of a dictator when we do so? If this had obtained before 1992, then this surely explains the nature of the government at that time.
As I see it, a President is elected as the leader or representative of a party, and has to be guided by the collective wisdom and experience of that party. It has to be the function of the executive of the party, the Cabinet and his technical advisers to maintain that guidance. It seems ludicrous to me in our present circumstances that we should ask a relatively young man who came into the government as a technocrat and who is manifestly limited in experience, personally as well as politically, to alone make the hard-core decisions and be the guiding force in solving the social problems of this country. One explanation may be that those advocates of one-man government may be encouraging this scenario to benefit from the errors, which will definitely be made.
of marginalisation are without substance
Indeed, over the years, the PNC/R has manufactured this and similar positions to help secure its traditional support. What differentiates the PPP/C from others is its capacity to provide responsible leadership.
In our delicate situation leadership with concepts of "slow fire; more fire" is destructive. The people of Guyana recognise that the PPP/C has moved our country forward: every village has benefited.
Given the decrepit state of the country we inherited; there is still much more to be done. However, the rebuilding process cannot take place in an environment where acts of violence, destruction, disruption, robbery and general disrespect for law and order are encouraged.
The PPP/C has been and will continue to be a responsible political party, rooted in the working class but committed to all our people. Our history and record of achievements require that we vigorously defend ourselves against Mr. Hoyte's insidious campaign to portray the Government as racist and insensitive to the needs of ordinary working people.
Mr. Hoyte's attempt to blame the PPP/C for the economic destruction of the village backlands is his most outlandish. By the time Mr. Hoyte came to office the economic viability of the backland of most of these villages was history.
A thriving pig-rearing industry died under his tenure. However, during the past several years, these communities have again become major suppliers of cash crops and ground provisions. The claim that "drainage and irrigation systems have been neglected and allowed to go to wrack and ruin" is an accurate description of what existed before 1992.
Today, the situation has improved significantly that farmers have returned to lands that had been abandoned for decades and others have expanded their farming activities. A mobile pump, established in January 2000, now drains the main drainage system in Buxton and its adjoining villages.
The maintenance of secondary drainage falls under the Regional and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, which have been in PNC control over the past eight years. Central government has been most responsive to requests from these councils.
For example, for the single year March 2000 to March 2001, $9M helped the Buxton/Foulis NDC to grade and shape 6,594 rods of access dams in the Buxton/Friendship farmlands; weed, clean and excavate about 25,900 rods of drains in Buxton, Friendship, Melanie, Bachelor's Adventure, Enterprise and Paradise; and to rehabilitate kokers at Company and Pond dams.
Mr. Hoyte also claimed that the children of Buxton were "being herded in a building that used to be a market where fish, vegetables, and other commodities were sold; the nursery section is in the part where fish was vended." What he omitted to mention was the fact that the use of the market at Buxton was a temporary measure employed by the Ministry of Education to facilitate the construction of a new and modern primary school for children of the Buxton community.
The choice of the market was made in consultation with parents; it was not an imposition on the community. Recourse by the Ministry of Education to buildings not designed for education purposes is common and is not limited to any particular communities. For example, at Anna Regina, Essequibo Coast children were decanted at five locations including a discarded Industrial Arts Building.
A similar situation obtained at Taymouth Manor, Essequibo where four bottom-houses were used. The Overwinning Market Centre was utilised to facilitate the construction of the new Overwinning Primary School. The ministry's ongoing capital programme will of necessity result in less than ideal temporary dislocations.
Under the PNC, health centres for the East Coast of Demerara were only established in communities from which it drew significant support: Plaisance, Beterverwagting, Buxton, Melanie, Nabacalis, Victoria, Ann's Grove, Mahaica, etc. That is now being corrected to provide equitable access to health care for residents.
In addition to establishing other facilities, a number of health centres, including the one at Buxton, was rehabilitated and now has adequate medical supplies. Regarding the opening hours for the clinic, the Region Four Democratic Council, which the PNC controls, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of that clinic.
For the record, Enmore and Enterprise do not have government health centres. These are Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) dispensaries, which are accessible only to GUYSUCO employees.
The Guyana Water Authority (GUYWA) has already corrected the false impression that water is being diverted from Buxton to other communities. I must point out that the PPP/C Government has spent $47M to install and repair pipelines as well as to refurbish the pumps at Buxton and Friendship. The residents of Buxton can testify to better water supply.
Mr. Hoyte's constant harping on "police provocation and harassment" is intended to demoralise the hardworking law enforcement ranks. Instead, he should have commended them for their professionalism in face of provocation and other distractions. The government does not and will not condone police excesses.
However, Mr. Hoyte must appreciate that the Police Force must be allowed to use such force as may be necessary for it to efficiently and effective discharge its responsibility. With reference to the activities of the security forces in Buxton and other areas during the post-election unrest, it is regrettable that Mr. Hoyte did not provide facts.
The police only act on information or after the prevalence of criminal activities in the specified areas. This has been so from time immemorial. Mr. Hoyte, as a former Minister of Home Affairs, knows this.
He also knows of the hundreds of unwarranted politically motivated raids against PPP and other opposition supporters and leaders.
On the issue of distribution of firearm licences, there are laid down criteria, which are followed by the Guyana Police Force before a recommendation is made. The claim that 1,000 licences are distributed a month is preposterous and a figment of Mr. Hoyte's imagination.
The Government supports the formation of Policing Groups in all communities and probably Mr. Hoyte may want to encourage other communities to organise such groups. A policing group may help to address the concerns of the residents of Buxton about the presence of drug camps aback their village.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Hoyte did not care to say what he did for the communities, he now so violently defends, during his Presidency. Let me remind him: roadways in the villages were neglected; no major drainage and irrigation work was done to help the farmers of the backlands; economic activities slowed to a stop; extension services to farmers ceased; the rate of poverty spiraled to 85% across the nation; thousands of public servants, many from those communities, were laid off; local democracy was hijacked with the last local government elections being held in 1970; the overall socio-economic decline took its toll on every community.
The political stance of the PNC/R has led to violence against innocent law-abiding citizens and to blatant breaches of the law. Sadly, Mr. Hoyte seems unrepentant about the scores of Guyanese, mainly persons of Indian descent and PPP supporters of African descent, who were beaten, robbed and their properties destroyed: not to mention his party's callous disruption of the nation's social and economic life. All Guyanese are and will continue to pay the price of this disruption.
Further, the report of the Joint Committee on depressed communities should be instructive.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
I write this open letter to you out of concern for our collective future. Some of you will resent me for what I am going to say, but so be it. I am no expert on African Guyanese political behavior, but I am concerned about where you are headed.
Since December 1997, I have watched you being demonized by your detractors, including some of your own race. You have been labeled everything that is bad: terrorists, hooligans, murderers, bullies, thieves, mobsters and sore losers. I have tried in my own small way, along with others, to counter some of these charges and in the process earned that dreaded label: racist. But what pains me most is that some of your actions have created the grounds for your demonization and you don't seem to care.
You are correct about being discriminated against and forced to the margins of the society. You are also correct in protesting against this condition and resisting efforts to push you further out. After all, your history has been one of noble resistance and triumph against the odds.
But most of your recent resistance, though noble in intention, has been less than noble in execution and outcome. Your protests and resistance have degenerated into unreason and hate.
Why? Because you have
(1) been dishonest;
(2) allowed yourself to be abused by your political party,
(3) refused to sanction your party for its inability to effectively represent your interests
(4) stopped believing in yourself and believing that the party will solve all your problems
(5) mistakenly believed that Indians are responsible for your plight;
(6) selfishly believed that Guyana belongs to your race alone; and
(7) fought for the party rather than fighting for yourself
At the risk of sounding like the PPP's "28 years" mantra, I have to remind you of a few things. Your marginalization did not begin in 1992; the PPP has simply continued the marginalization that your party, the PNC, perfected. The very young may not know this, but those of you who are over 30 years old know this. That is why I say you are dishonest. After 28 years in office, your party left you poorer and less educated than you were when it took office in 1964. It did not facilitate or encourage your entry into the business sector. It gave you jobs, but did not encourage you to accumulate wealth. In fact, by its policies, it pushed you out of the businesses it met you with--pig farming, poultry farming, cash crop farming, small and medium size cake shops and groceries, and pork knocking. You were forced to be totally dependent on the government for work, so when the government ran out of money and decided to downsize, you were downsized.
Some of you then turned to trading and saved Guyanese from starvation, but your own party treated you as criminals. And even today, they are still trying to get you off the streets. When Mr. Hoyte started his ERP in the late 1980's, you did not benefit; in fact, your situation became worse. The ERP trimmed government and froze wages, and since you worked for government you lost your jobs or your wages were frozen. The ERP also made it easier for businesses to grow, but you owned no businesses so you could not cash in.
In the meantime, you stopped sending your children to school because they had to help you sell or because you were so busy "hustling a dollar, you could not ensure that they went to school. Some of you were encouraged to seek the party card rather than a school certificate. Many good teachers left the job or left the country, because they were paid slave wages. And the school system collapsed.
Your villages, which were bought by your fore-parents, were left to rot. Roads became tracks, canals dried up, and your farms became useless. But most importantly, control over your villages was taken away from you as the villages were merged into neighborhoods. You could no longer make day-to-day decisions that affect your lives. Your party disempowered you economically, educationally and politically.
So when the PPP came to power in 1992, it, not unexpectedly, continued this disempowerment. In a small society where the pie is small and the society is divided, each side understandingly looks after its own. But when that is done totally at the expense of the other side, as the PPP has done, it is out of order. But lets give "Jack he Jacket". The PPP in nine years repaired more roads and built more new schools in African communities than the PNC did in its last 25 years in office. That is a fact. But the PPP also did ten times more in Indian communities, and its policies on bauxite and the Public Service basically continued the marginalization started by the PNC.
I say all of the above to remind you that you have been historically marginalized: by the colonizers, the PNC, and the PPP. So to blame the PPP alone for your marginalization is unfair and dishonest. And there is nothing like more marginalization and less marginalization: marginalization is marginalization. What is the mistake you are making when you blame the PPP alone for marginalization? You will fight to remove the PPP from office thinking your marginalization will end, rather than trying to change the system that causes your marginalization.
And it's on this score that you have allowed yourself to be abused by your party. By allowing yourself to be manipulated by the party, you have added to your own marginalization. What have you been protesting against since 1997? First you were told its rigged elections, and you believed. Then you were told it was marginalization, and you believed. What are you protesting for, or what do you want at the end of the day? At first you were not told anything, and you did not tell yourself anything. Then you were told it's inclusion and you have not asked what it means. You were brought on to the streets in 1998 and then took off when they had enough. You were brought on again in 2001 and then abandoned again. You were told that your party would win the elections and you will be relieved of your burdens and you believed. You have surrendered your right to think and act in your own interest. Rather than fighting to end your marginalization, you are fighting to win elections. Bad business.
You voted for victory in 1997 and 2001, but you are still out in the cold. You have beaten and robbed Indians and you were not told you were wrong and urged to stop it. You have fooled yourselves that the police will not beat you because they are black and you are black. And now you hate the police. But your party once instructed the very black police to beat black people who opposed the party.
You have protested since 1997 and assaulted Indians-to what end? Your party is now having dialogue with the PPP, but you are still jobless; you still cant get loans to start businesses; your children still cant read and write; crime, drugs, and disease still haunt your days and nights; your villages on the East Coast are still militarized zones; and your TV hosts are being charged for sedition. History repeats itself, for most of you were silent when your party once charged its opponents with treason. Remember?
You are told to apply "slow fire" and "more fire," yet nobody comes to you to sit down and work out development plans for your communities. You are fighting with guns and channa bombs rather than with development plans in your hand, as the WPA told you in 1992. But as usual you behave as if "stick bruck ah you hase." To be fair to you, sometimes you listen to reason and perhaps admire it, but you don't act on it. You act on unreason and so long as you continue to do that you will always be marginalized.
If you don't pull yourself together, you will be protesting elections forever. Do you want Guyana for yourself or do you want to share it with others? Common sense suggests that you have to share Guyana. So if you share the country you have to share the governance and the burden of the governance. This is part of what you ought to be fighting for-Power Sharing. Those who tell you Power Sharing cant work are dishonest and don't have your interest at heart. If they don't want to share power, be sensible and vote for those who want you to get your share of power.
What really is the root of your current problem? Every civilized country has rules and laws that determine how it is governed. The British left us some rules in 1966 and the PNC, the party that you have consistently voted for, upgraded those rules in 1980. The rules made by the PNC and PNC alone in 1980 state very clearly that governance of Guyana shall be determined by one person/ one vote and the party that wins the majority of the vote shall govern with its leader being head of government and state. According to those rules made by the PNC, it will find it difficult to win a fair election, because in Guyana we vote along racial lines and you Africans are not the majority race,
When another opportunity for review of these rules came in 1999, your party, the PNC, refused to change them. There were either of three reasons for doing this: (1) the PNC was hoping to do the impossible of rigging a victory while in opposition; (2) they thought that all Africans will vote for the PNC and some Indians will abandon the PPP; or (3) they wanted Africans to remain out of government permanently. Since the last three elections did not result in the first two points, then it leaves us with the third one. The PNC, in its quest to regain power, cares very little whether you continue to suffer; in fact your suffering is a good election issue. And like "African Bees," you are used to do some stinging when the election plans don't come through.
I have recounted the above primarily to suggest to you that you are ignoring to your peril some glaring truths. You have no political and economic power. That is what you must be fighting for. You have to lift yourself up. Stop the madness. Stop blaming the PPP for everything. Start building your own future. Don't be fooled by promises of rehabilitation by the "dialogue." They will repair a few roads, but you need more than that. You need jobs, good education, business opportunities, bank loans, and drainage and irrigation. You need empowerment. Shouting "No Justice! No Peace!" is foolish. Nobody gives you justice; you have to fight for it. And the place to begin is in your communities, for only you can rehabilitate your communities. Here are my modest suggestions.
First, organize in your communities. Meet and discuss what you want and then set up committees to work out the different parts of your plan. Set up alternative Village and Town Councils to oversee the entire process. Come up with your development plans that would ensure your economic future. Your plans must include job creation, education, better infrastructure, health care and other necessary social services. Call in Clive Thomas, Eric Phillips, Kenneth King, Haslyn Parris, Eusi Kwayana and ACDA to advise you. These economists would be more useful to you in this way, than sitting on committees or going into the PPP's cabinet. When you have your plan in hand, then you can go to Freedom House and Congress Place and make your demands. Then you can take to the streets.
Second, form clubs and groups for young people in particular. Meet and talk and discuss and plan. Put out leaflets to publicize your views. Form ACDA chapters and then link up with ACDA. Invite David Granger; he knows the history.
Third, demand your villages back; they are yours. Go to Congress Place and Freedom House and the Parliament and demand that they change the constitution to reintroduce the Village Councils.
Fourth, start education/literacy programs immediately. Put your teachers, university students and other professionals to teach during the holidays and in the afternoons. Work out your curriculum to include the following--reading, writing, agriculture, how to start and run business, political organizing and leadership, parenting, conflict resolution, and African Guyanese history and culture.
Fifth, demand constitutional changes to protect you from discrimination and political marginalization. Include in your constitutional demands that your representatives sit in all branches of government and make decisions on your behalf; that they are part of the Cabinet that makes decisions on jobs and contracts and how loans and grants and your tax dollars are spent. Also demand that free university and technical education be reintroduced.
Sixth, work out education and other plans to fight drug abuse, domestic abuse, HIV/AIDS, and violence. Your plan must seek government help but must not depend solely on government. Draw up grant proposals to send to NGO's and overseas Guyanese organizations to help fund these programs.
And the last word for my fellow Buxtonions. Shame on you. You have lost your way. You have gone crazy. You have dishonored 160 years of heroism and pride. More than any group of Guyanese, you ought to know how to protest and agitate. During the anti-dictatorial struggles you led the protest and agitation and not a single Indian was touched. You have not lived up to your anthem: "Thou will not cower in the dust." You are now covered in dust. Dust yourself off and live again.
It is our hope that this is not merely "feel-good" rhetoric but an indication that President Jagdeo and the present crop of PPP leaders have finally accepted that the repeated bouts of election-related violence in Guyana are related to the nature of the politics practised here.
In his statement Mr. Jagdeo has connected competitive politics, race-hate and violence. This is progress.
Up to now, he has adamantly refused to accept that the problems following the March 19th elections were ethnically (or race) based. He blamed it on those who wanted to seize power "outside the ballot box".
Mr. Desmond Hoyte, leader of the PNC with whom Mr. Jagdeo has assured us he "talked and talked and talked", disagrees. Last Sunday, in a long letter to the Stabroek News, Mr. Hoyte declared that the cause of the underlying protests by his supporters was very widespread and most legitimate.
Typically protests are staged when the political system does not permit the political interests of a constituency to be articulated or addressed. Mr. Hoyte's contention is that his constituency's interests have been consistently ignored by the PPP since they came into office in 1992. Mr. Hoyte, however, still refuses to call a spade a spade. To wit that his constituency is primarily African Guyanese and when he bemoans, "neglect" and "marginalisation" he is referring to the perceptions of an ethnic community. And herein lies the rub.
while Mr. Jagdeo accurately complains about "competitively destructive politics"
it ironically arises out of his PPP and Mr. Hoyte's PNC respectively mobilizing
the Indian and African sections of the population at elections but still defining
their parties as "multi-racial". They concede that any legitimate government
in Guyana must be "multi-racial". The point that ROAR has been making
is if they each accept that they are ethnic parties they automatically would have
to work out some arrangement wherein both groups would see themselves being represented
ROAR deliberately chose to define itself as an "Indian" party and mobilized from that community but then called for a National Front Government and Federalism as innovations to include Africans and all other ethnic groups in governance. There may be other ways of eliminating "competitively destructive politics" but it begins by a candid acceptance of the root causes.
The PPP, we must note, has been most flagrantly guilty of practising "competitively destructive politics" and if Mr. Jagdeo is to be taken seriously the PPP will have to change its political mobilizational strategies and ultimately the nature of the political system, which encourages such strategies .During the last campaign Mr. Jagdeo waged a vicious campaign against ROAR in the Indian community advising the latter "not to split the vote". This is a code in Guyana for both PPP and PNC to keep their blocs intact by installing fear that if the vote is "split" the "other" race will get in. To make his case crystal clear, in the closing days of the campaign, Mr. Jagdeo held a newspaper clipping of myself debating Mr. Hoyte, and declared to his audience that I was discussing "joining with the PNC". The subtext of course was I would take Indian votes, give it to the African party and allow Africans to "get in". What could be more redolent of "competitively destructive politics" than this? And what could spread more race hate?
Long before the campaign began, the PPP angled to have me say that I would "coalesce" with the PNC. We should not forget that it was the PPP that arranged for Mr. Mark Benschop to establish "Straight-Up" on Channel 69 and that one favourite target then was Ravi Dev and ROAR. The whole of the PPP's hierarchy paraded on the show then. In an early programme Mr. Benschop badgered me in an attempt to get me to say that I would work with the PNC. I have never spoken about it to Mr. Benschop since but I am sure that he could reveal who set up the strategy and why. When the PPP held their rally in front of my home they claimed I said I would coalesce with the PNC on the Benschop show. Well things have certainly changed since then!
This type of politicking must cease. Guyana has to go forward however, and we cannot remain mired in the past. We have to accept the possibility of growth. For the growth to be positive however, Mr. Jagdeo and Mr. Hoyte must firstly both accept that their parties are ethnically based. Ethnic-based politics springs from specific imperatives and requires a whole range of additional measures to defuse its sting as compared to class based or other types of politics. Regime legitimacy is a prerequisite for stability in any polity but moreso in ethically divided societies.
Neither the PPP nor PNC can muster the requisite broad legitimacy in Guyana at this juncture. Therefore we must begin to look at other options of governance. "Inclusiveness" is made a travesty when concessions are made at the point of a gun and when it is not institutionalized in a manner that will obviate the need for competitively destructive politics.
<<< Page X TOP Page X>>>