"...let a second generation (of leaders) full of courage issue forth"
Part I of Inclusiveness in Government
by Festus L. Brotherson, Jr.
April 8, 2001
IN RECENT days, persons have ended contributions to public discourse about inclusiveness in government with a plea that, "God help us all" in Guyana.
These cries mirror exasperation at the difficulty of the task. Serious frustration with the challenges have begun to hit home again - this time in the wake of the results of the March 19, 2001 general elections that returned the PPP/C to power. Those results showed that racial voting has intensified; so much so that African-Guyanese want a return to black-dominated, authoritarian rulership under the PNC/R just after eight years of democratic government by the East Indian-dominated PPP/C.
More than that, the party's intimidatory "slow fire" approach to political participation involves pushing the envelope of public tolerance for democratic protests to the extreme in order to bring back dictatorship! The PNC/R's orientation cum behaviour, if "slow fire" is condoned or rewarded, guarantees rule by the very same authoritarian methods that Guyanese peacefully rejected in 1992.
The party has not changed, by one jot or tittle, its totalitarian structure through which it continues flagrantly to foist familiar infallibility and omniscience upon its out-of-touch leadership in anachronistic cult worship, barely camouflaged by an informal, scattered appendage it calls "Reform."
Corrupt ideologues who pay mere lip service to democracy, without nary a consistently determined attempt to introduce let alone insist upon it within the ranks of the once paramount party, still hold executive membership and influential sway. This is contradicted by their studied inaction for reformed leadership. They concur in their leader's refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing of any kind, or any incompetent administration of Guyana in any instance, that inexorably marched the country backwards into a 19th century status rather than forwards in search of 21st century development.
The party's leader still holds out an overrated, tiresome, jawboned-to-death self-evaluation of success late in its tenure, when its illegitimate chess game of violent electoral rigging for power continuance was checkmated.
Brazenly, it promotes actual violence and the constant threat of it, to the point of sedition, as its preferred way of political functioning in a fragile democratic environment. Indeed, that is all it knows.
The party has no experience with democracy and appears uninterested in learning and following its principles.
The paradox here is obvious. By their votes, African-Guyanese believe they will be better off under PNC/R authoritarianism despite the fact that the same rulership had for twenty-eight years wreaked such unparalleled calamity on their lives, that they are
worse off today than at any point in the 35 year history of political independence in 1966. They were made to compete in the Western hemisphere for last place in standards of living with Haiti. They had either voted with their feet via emigration waves or clamoured for change. Things have begun to improve for them under the PPP/C with the government making a determined effort in Black areas to provide schools, running water, health facilities, and roads in addition to creating housing estates.
But under the rabble rousing mass support tactics of racial goadings, the message to the rest of Guyana is Black preference for the certainty of stagnation and regression under the unreformed, unapologetic and violence-prone authoritarian dictates of an ill-tempered megalomaniac, rather than support for the possibility of meaningful difference under a party comprised mainly of East Indian leaders in a democracy that is still evolving for the better despite the harshest efforts at sabotage.
Such is the illogic of racial politics! It cannot be that African-Guyanese really think that the PPP/C has had enough time to provide dramatic benefits in the state and society.
They have suffered and borne witness to PNC/R's destructive actions that have scared off investors, handcuffed government policy-making efforts, stagnated bureaucratic functioning, and corrupted the morals of youth by routine, unrepentant lawbreaking and iconoclasm. It also cannot be that African- Guyanese really believe that under eight years of the PPP/C their entire lives have been turned upside down to the
point of dire hopelessness that eclipses the deconstruction of their progress that muddle-headed PNC policies visited upon them over nearly three decades. No!
And yet, remarkably, it is out of this labyrinthine condition of illogic and other confusion that bleatings emanate for "inclusiveness" in governance arrangements. While some non-PNC/R activists make pleas and requests for it, the losing PNC/R makes "demands" while refusing even to acknowledge its own electoral shellacking or recognise Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo as the elected President of Guyana.
Under these hostage-type circumstances, the PPP/C is under no obligation to meet with the PNC/R for discussions on inclusiveness in government. And it should not! To do so would be to indicate that wanton warlordism pays wonderful dividends of acceptance and respectability. However, knowing the caliber of leadership President Jagdeo has pledged to offer, there is little doubt that he will continue to reach out to the main opposition party in search of compromise in the national interest. Good luck, Mr.
All democracies validate implementing periods of constitutional dictatorship, referred to in the appropriate theories as states of emergency or states of siege. There are also very clear guidelines when such periods must be enacted. From this writer's perspective, the politics of purposeful lawbreaking and obstructionist intimidation in Guyana, i.e., "slow fire," is approaching this blurry point of momentous choice. Very hard decisions will have to be made while the newly elected government makes demands of it own some of which should be the following non-negotiable pointers: recognition of President Bharrat Jagdeo and PPP/C as legitimately elected to office; public pledge
disavowing political violence and intimidation; cessation of violence and disruptive marches; and new PNC/R political leadership arrangements reflective of serious commitment to democracy.
To fellow African-Guyanese who share my level of deep-seated patriotism, I commend more uplifting advice from "Roses and Revolution" by Dudley Randall: "...let a second generation (of leaders) full of courage issue forth, let a people loving freedom come to growth, let a race of men now rise and take control..." of their own destiny and bring to an abrupt halt the use of racial ideology by others as a higher form of cunning for their manipulation.
The dilemma of inclusiveness in search of stronger democracy is not new in political history and theory. Interestingly, the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau believed that the democratic principle of inclusivity in government should be enshrined in a national constitution. However, aware of the near impossibility of agreement on the specifics of the provision, he persuaded that citizens be fooled into believing that any proposed constitution had been divinely inspired. Why? Humans were so corruptible and so unfit for agreeing on goodness for the state to the exclusion of overriding self-interest, that the sacrifices and trust necessary for acceptance of a new constitution could not be met successfully.
Bringing about such a fundamental change in the structure and functioning of government represents nothing less than approximating an ideal. It is a vision of something completely new, of founding a new state. And it was Niccolo Machiavelli who assessed prophetically: "There is nothing more difficult to accomplish or achieve in statecraft than to initiate a new order of things." I say again that, in the circumstances of Guyana, the task is one which is at once necessary but impossible. However, there are ways around this impasse.
For peace and progress:
doing what is necessary but impossible
Part II of Inclusiveness in Government
THE current state-of-nature Guyana situation of unbridled lawlessness emphasises the importance of understanding political theory and using it towards constructing a controllable, workable reality.
Such an approach to problem-solving offers the benefit of reasoned, focused, purposeful efforts in search of doing both what is necessary and what is possible. It is a superior strategy to ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat efforts energised by emotions of the moment merely to douse flames. Not to focus on theory is to make critical life choices without the benefit of already accumulated wisdom derived from in depth contemplations.
Such an impatient posture assures hastily driven decision-making and a guarantee of trying for years later to undo resulting calamities.
In statecraft, precisely because quick fix solutions tend to be appealing, they don't work; even when in the name of higher-level moral imperatives. Evidence, the once quick fix programme to "Feed, House and Clothe the Nation" during a prescribed four year period from 1972-1976! Evidence, too, our continuing problems with the Guyana constitution. And thus it is that, in the current situation of violent discontent, despite the proliferation of demands in respected quarters for the quick fix of "inclusiveness in government" in the national interest, or based on what the PNC/R boastingly calls "negotiations from strength" (read "mob rule"); the path to this paradise is strewn with tremendous obstacles.
The situation is one where cooperation towards inclusiveness in government is at once necessary but impossible under prevailing conditions.
The first and foremost requirement of any government is to provide citizens with a sense of freedom from fear. This is the basis and logic of all governmental rulership. In a fear-free environment, people are able to go about their daily business in society - earn a living, provide for family, pursue ambitions, worship, speak and associate freely - all within the ambit of the law.
Indeed, ensuring obedience to the rule of law is the corollary to providing freedom from fear. Without the one, there cannot be the other in what is, of necessity, a symbiotic relationship. Again, the logic behind institutions of coercion that are within the purview of state power, such as the police and military, is the requirement to provide freedom from fear through enforcement of the rule of law - especially when flagrantly disrespected.
Any sustained breakdown in the maintenance of these arrangements returns us to the dreaded state-of-nature where individuals and groups usurp state functions and behave as outlaws and warlords.
On the East Coast of Demerara highway, for example, PNC/R supporters have erected illegal toll booths and are extorting fees from scared citizens in order to fund their party's campaign of terror. The PNC/R leadership boldly calls for "more fire," i.e., is the wanton destruction of businesses and property. Last week, it reinforced this with a widely circulated flyer depicting a bomb and, lo and behold, a huge section of the Georgetown business district was fire bombed. Now, there are relentless efforts to sustain mayhem, including an arson attempt on the historic St. George's Cathedral.
Last week, also, PNC/R leaders and provocateurs, in the name of so-called democratic peaceful protests, deliberately blocked the entrances to the Office of the Executive President to assure their arrest and proclaim martyrdom-type commitment to their "cause." Nowhere in the world does "democracy" permit such an affront to the rule of law where protesters are allowed to control ingress and egress to the head of state's offices!
What exists in the state and society is a complete absent of trust between the major contending political parties. This mistrust is being stoked on the basis of racial politics primarily by the convincingly defeated main opposition PNC/R against the legitimately elected PPP/C party and government.
As this intensifies, citizens' groups have increased calls for a return to political order mostly through urging dialogue between the two contending parties. In keeping to his promise to the nation, President Jagdeo is pursuing this avenue of conflict resolution with admirable determination. And, to judge from the rising choruses for peace, he clearly has the support of most Guyanese who, including this writer, are hoping for a positive outcome.
There remain, however, some important realities about statecraft.
Nicolo Machiavelli is one of many theorists who warned about imponderables And compromises when the security of the state is at risk. Expanded, when there exists a clear and present danger to the established legitimacy of political leadership; when there is an organised breakdown of law and order and a pervading absence of trust, political leadership needs to view the restoration of order as its only priority. Thomas Hobbes argued that the development of trust is only possible when all contending forces are made to see that it is in their own best self-interest to obey the law for fear of the harsh consequences of disobedience.
In his theorising, a key to the prerequisite of trust is the giving up by partisans of arbitrarily invented rights to be lawbreakers in the pursuit of narrow ends - regardless of how noble.
In statecraft, trust among contending parties must be prior to any coming to agreeable terms between them. If not, no agreement would stand. This is an undisputable fact which many of those persons calling for inclusiveness in government seem, in haste, to miss.
In situations like Guyana's where the absence of trust is grounded in racial politics and the propensity of one side to attempt to prevail by violence to control the state, this is especially important and justifies an approach of baby steps, at first, to build trust prior to the development of agreements for inclusiveness in government.
Telling lies on God for help with peace and Progress
Part III of Inclusiveness in Government (Final)
SAID Cassandra in the Stabroek News weekly column of April 15, 2001: "...stop all this praying. God gone to sleep." However, in his column of April 20 in the same newspaper, Alan Fenty reminded, "God doan wear pyjamas."
Historically, whenever man-made problems appear insurmountable, people tend to seek solutions outside the sphere of human rationality which is deemed inferior. Appeals must be made to God. From different angles, both writers' comments captured the onset of hopelessness that leads to such calls for Divine intervention.
Put another way, the Guyanese people have been expressing a collective sense of frustration with the purposefully pumped up racial tensions and organised political violence whose origins point once again suspiciously, if not directly, to the main opposition People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) party.
Indeed, ever since the party was defeated in the general elections of March 18, it has been crying foul and stoking the embers of racism with calls for "more fire" - a coded phrase for an intensification of belligerent social and political upheavals beyond that already produced by the previous code phrase of "slow fire" and the blunt promise of three years ago to "make Guyana ungovernable."
Racism remains the one issue in all of Guyanese politics that, once manipulatively invoked, assures senseless, paralysing tensions and, with deliberate coaxing, even violence.
In fact, since colonial times, development progress has been stifled by racial conflict. This was so under East Indian-dominated PPP administration from 1957-1964 and now again from 1992 to the present. But during the 28-year Black-dominated authoritarian reign by the PNC, from 1964-1992, the racial tensions did not evolve into outright violence by the majority East Indian population.
This appears to suggest that African-Guyanese are violence-prone and lack the temperament of tolerance and other graces necessary for the successful exercise of democratic governance. A legitimate question is this: Given that PNC behaviour during 1957-1964, and again now after the 1997 and the 2001 general elections, have demonstrated a complete disrespect for democratic principles, can anyone trust that were that party by some stroke of lightening to regain office, it would embrace democracy?
PNC/R ideologues say yes and advance a different explanation for the violence. They claim with some heat that Indian racism is worse than Black racism in scope and intensity. They point to the fact that during PNC administrations, despite hardships, Indians made significant economic and political progress - moreso than Blacks who became worse off economically than ever before. The argument is a stupid one. It is also offensive. It is akin to debating whether a "little" rape is better than a "big" rape or which form of slavery or colonialism was "better."
Besides, what is missed in this sort of specious justification for Black political violence as a response to perceived racism is the following point: East Indians might have done okay under PNC racism DESPITE hardships and not because Black racism was milder.
This hypothesis would force an examination of African-Guyanese family values, traditions and conceptions of wealth, etc., which many are reluctant to visit. The new Minister of Education, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, once advanced the theory that Black conception of wealth involved factors having to do more with demonstration of it than with monetary accumulation. It would be useful for this and other ideas to be pursued in search of debunking specious arguments about "milder racism."
In any event, the ongoing tensions and political violence have revived calls for "inclusiveness in government." These have led to the now much anticipated talks scheduled for Tuesday, April 24, between a very magnanimous President Bharrat Jagdeo and the sore-loser leader of the PNC/R Desmond Hoyte. Can these talks lead to any inclusiveness?"
In public appearances (profile and speeches) Hoyte appears energised by his loss of the elections for the third time in a row. Why? He has by racial politics managed to reawaken and deepen the historical fears of African-Guyanese about East Indians.
Before the elections of March 19, the PNC/R was disunited and his leadership was under serious challenge. Now, the party is united around the polarising issue of race and his leadership is unchallenged for the foreseeable future.
From an authoritarian angle of vision, the PNC/R has been excelling at its strength - divisive authoritarian politics that drives fear in the hearts of citizens. Bluntly put, this means that Demon Desmond is now prepared to "negotiate from strength."
For reasons beyond the scope of this essay, the weight and value of this "wrong-and-strong" feeling of power might be false.
The issue at hand, however, is for Guyana, by means of these "talks," to achieve what is necessary but impossible, i.e., inclusiveness in government. It is possible only if a power greater than the PNC or the PPP/C is given power to enforce any agreement that is made. Why? From the record of the PNC/R with agreements, contracts or compacts, we know that there is an inability and unwillingness to keep faith and disrespect of PPP/C power to enforce agreements. We also know that based on these experiences with its rival, there is a justifiable absence of trust on the part of the PPP/C with any promises made by the PNC/R.
The PPP/C has the recourse to awesome state power (but is unwilling to use it unless absolutely necessary) to crush PNC recalcitrance and bad faith. This reluctance is attributable to efforts to sustain democratic governance even in the face of national security provocations. The PNC/R continues to count on this orientation. Will the PPP/C hold to this position if political bullyism continues and political violence resumes - escalates even - if and after the reaching of any agreements for inclusiveness in government?
This is unclear but ONLY the government has the coercive means necessary to enforce any agreements reached with the PNC. And the problem remains that the
PNC/R leadership does not respect this power. It plays the game of using the language of democracy to level charges about abuse of state power.
We return therefore to the calls for help from God to solve the crisis. There is ample support for this move in a chicanerous way from French thinker Jean Jacques Rousseau. As he put it: "(People)...being unable to appeal to either force or reason (to solve problems), must have recourse to an authority of a different order, capable of constraining without violence and persuading without convincing."
People must be fooled that such authority in favor of an agreement came from God's infallible reasoning. He explained it thus: "This sublime reason, far above the range of the common herd, is that whose decisions the legislator (s) puts into the mouths of the immortals, in order to constrain by divine authority those whom human prudence could not move."
In Guyana's context, however, if we interpret the state-of-nature condition of lawlessness as Hobbesian, i.e., more serious and injurious than had Rousseau, the dilemma we face in attempting to persuade people that God's will is for peace is that humans will kill God! In our case, this means the PNC would kill God precisely because of the party's perception of no power - none at all - having the capacity to stop selfish ambition in a state-of-nature environment.
Farfetched? Consider the PNC/R-inspired attempt to destroy St George's Cathedral by "more fire" two scant weeks ago!