Despite the problems there have been opportunities for development

Stabroek News
June 2, 2001

Dear Editor,

If this letter was in the form of a university academic paper, I would have entitled it, "The Third Republic." As my analysis unfolds, readers will see what I mean. I am responding to your Independence Day editorial in which you chronicled a concatenation of socio-economic periods that have left no interregnum in which the take off process could have occurred in Guyana. I support the academic integrity of your argument but would like to point you to the lacunae in your description of the passage of these historical periods.

Your description began with the fifties and its fatal political zeitgeist - left wing politics. The sixties brought ethnic confrontation. The seventies and eighties endured Burnhamism. The nineties suffered from the accumulated effects of these bygone epochs. My contestation is that there were two moments of intervention in which the take off could have come into existence, sustained itself and propelled the society into consistent growth that would have allowed for a respectable catching up with the rest of the region.

The first period I style the First republic. This was under Mr Hoyte from 1987 - 1992. In this period, economic policy began to be fashioned by the perestroika blueprint. Political culture came under the influence of the Latin American process of abertura. But the social revolution under Hoyte had a congenital defect and it cost Hoyte the 1992 election much to his bitter chagrin.

Hoyte sought to refashion economy and society using authoritarian generosity, ill- thought out populist policies and narrow clientelism. Hoyte's social revolution stood on three pillars - the personality of Hoyte, the presidency itself and a small group of new PNC leaders. Such a regime could not have democratised the society because it lacked consensus and the input of the essential stakeholders.

The Hoyte period of the First Republic was a great moment in the history of this country which could have carried the society into the future from which it would not have looked back. It was not to be because the influence and methodology of Burnhamism was still there.

The Second Republic began from 1993 to 1997. This was the period of the Cheddi Jagan administration. This regime had popular, regional and international support comparable to what Pakistan had when the military government was replaced with Benazir Bhutto; the Philippines when Aquino replaced Marcos; Argentina and Chile when civilian governments replaced military dictatorship, and the list goes on. The moment had arrived. Despite the emergence of Hoyte's six year experimentation, the world was excited about the end of rigged elections in Guyana and the return to popularly elected government. And the world expected exciting things. But the PPP government fell into the trap we academics call, " the functional theory of the state." The PPP equated elections with democracy; it was a tragic mistake. Trapped in the only politics Guyana knew, Burnhamism, the PPP followed faithfully in the direction of its predecessor, the Hoyte administration. The anti-dictatorship alliance was frowned upon, the party relied exclusively on its own forces (no disrespect intended to the CIVIC), civil society was sidelined, and the greatest hour since the fifties just evaporated into thin air only to be replaced with the spectre of racism, violence, political venality and nihilism which we have with us today, and by today, I mean it literally. For those of us who were part of the momentous, historic, priceless ride into the nineties with our dreamy expectations, we will live with this regret for the rest of our lives. These days when I listen to the anti-PPP criticism of Clive Thomas, David Hinds, Rupert Roopnaraine, Andaiye, Mike McCormack, Lincoln Lewis and a school of others, I may not necessarily agree with what they say and write but I know the way they feel. In each of us there is a psyche: psychic hurt, most times, is irreparable. We come now to the Third Republic.

I would date this arrival from the election of Bharrat Jagdeo in March of this year. David Hinds told me that I can't be serious when I wrote that maybe Afro-Guyanese should wait and see how Jagdeo would turn out. But I did not say that as a political activist. I wrote as an academic who makes his living applying theory to social phenomena. So yes David, I am serious.

I believe Guyana has arrived at its third interregnum. What Hoyte couldn't do in the First Republic, and Jagan couldn't do in the Second Republic, Jagdeo has the potential to do in this the Third Republic.

Space does not allow the writer to delineate the differences between Hoyte and Jagan on the one hand, and Jagdeo on the other but some clearly visible dissimilarities are there - a different era, different political culture, the question of age, a changing world ethic etc.

It is generally said that those who have power in a compact between opposition and government have to make the first move and be more compromising.

The most recent example of this is Tony Blair in the Irish conflict. But the old clich remains potent as ever - it takes two to tango. The Third Republic must be seen by the president, the PPP, the opposition, civil society and the still active forces that were part of the pro-democracy movement as Guyana's last chance, therefore extreme generosity on all sides should be a natural emanation. I firmly and most sincerely believe that if in the coming five years, before the next election, the Third Republic fails, this country will virtually die.

Yours faithfully,

Frederick Kissoon
Department of Gov't and
Intl. Affairs
University of Guyana