February 17, 2000
Neither major party has done anything to escape
the ethnic trap through constitutional reform
I appreciate the fact that the General Secretary of the PNC, Oscar Clarke has taken the trouble to respond to my letter in which I point out that the Constitution Reform Commission produced nothing that will help us escape the trap of ethnic voting guaranteed by the prevailing electoral system. "A constitution," I pointed out, "embracing an electoral process virtually guaranteeing indefinite "Indian" rule in the eyes of "Africans" is bound to result in "African" resistance and retaliation outside of the constitutional process," with disastrous consequences for our country.
In my letter, I clearly hold both the PPP and the PNC responsible for evading the issue. The electoral system, I said, "holds us all hostage to disaster, yet both the PPP and the PNC leadership refuse to recognise, far less read the writing on the wall."
Oscar Clarke responded by accusing me of claiming that the PNC leadership is opposed to the idea of "power sharing." I did not say that. Nevertheless, Mr. Desmond Hoyte is on the record on numerous occasions, indicating little enthusiasm for "power sharing," on the quite reasonable ground that he is unclear about what is meant by those who advocate it.
Clarke says that the PNC at the Commission "opened the door" to discussions for "major changes in the nature of governance." One might well ask, "what does that mean." He goes on, carefully and significantly, to state that the PNC's willingness to discuss "major changes in the nature of governance" is not a concession that "ethnic based politics is inevitable". Is that why the PNC has not given serious attention to the issue?
The point of my letter was that neither of the two major parties has done anything to, at least, attempt to escape the ethnic trap through constitutional reform and that both leaderships are content to take us into an election which "disallows us from being Guyanese when we decide our future at the polls." Nothing in Oscar Clarke's letter suggests otherwise.
I know from personal knowledge that the PNC leadership and party are committed to "inclusiveness." I, after all, played a major part in the PNC's 97 election campaign. The PPP's leadership lays claim to the same commitment. I have no reason to disbelieve them.
The problem is that both parties are also irrevocably dependent on racial allegiance for their power base and while, certainly, the PNC would sensibly prefer to broaden its base (it can't win unless it does), all the evidence points to the fact that neither party is able to do so.
Agreed that the greater burden for constitutional reform lies with the governing party, but that does not excuse the PNC from sharing in the responsibility for the "new constitution" failing to address the issue, as Oscar Clarke would prefer to have us accept.
The PNC, under Mr. Desmond Hoyte's leadership since 1985, has, on the basis of its ability to attract investment and achieve economic growth, outperformed the PPP. Has it therefore occurred to the PNC that, if reason rather than race elected our government, the PNC under Hoyte might well have been governing today.