PNC/R hurting itself with its `slow fire/more fire'
Guyana is the ultimate victim

Guyana Chronicle
June 24, 2001

THE INTERNAL problems about its future which the PNC faces - even with a 'reform' component - may be more serious than anyone from that party would care to admit publicly at this time.

But its problems cannot be good news either for the party or this nation. For, whatever the real nature of those problems - appropriate alternative leadership, policies involving national development and race relation, operational funding, denial of dissent within its ranks or else - the PNC is faced with the challenge of having to sustain itself with credibility to lead an alternative government.

Right now, its credibility rating would be rather low by any independent set of criteria when examined against the background of its bitter, divisive and destructive politics, guided by the politically insane slogan of "slow fire/more fire".

The party is clearly hurting itself with this slogan and, by extension, Guyana.

The internal frustration over such sensitive issues of leadership and power-sharing, disenchantment and division over the abominable "slow fire/more fire" approach, could influence the agenda of those prone to threats, racially divisive and destructive politics.

And Guyana will continue to be the primary victim even amid the ongoing dialogue between President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte.

The country can well degenerate into an economic graveyard, with the "sufferers" being people of ALL races - unless those within the PNC/R, reputed to be on the side of sober, matured politics and a principled working relationship with the government, can triumph over those with a passion for lawlessness and for whom the Police Force has now become an 'enemy', and the destruction of state property a badge of honour.

Not that in being reduced to an economic graveyard will really matter to those with hardly any stake left in this country's future; those too hawkish to permit any significant changes in the leadership structure of the party or still too committed to maintaining the old ground of communal/ethnic politics.

But civil society cannot allow the PNC/R to sustain its politics of intimidation, blackmail and destruction to continue, by rationalising it, as some would expediently seek to do, as a political war with the governing PPP/C. It is clearly anti-national politics. Nothing less.

Therefore, civil society will have to do more than resorting to the occasional press release denunciations or knee-jerk reactions to the PNC/R's dangerous slogan of "slow fire/more fire".

It is a slogan which could well be equated with the politics of a different dispensation, that of "party paramountcy" - a doctrine that had made such a tragic farce of human rights and democratic governance, eroded the independence of the judiciary, crippled media freedom, undermined the rule of law, resulted in social decay and reduced Guyana to one of the world's "20 poorest nations".

Civil Society
Some of the key players of the era of "party paramountcy" are still very much around, though in different positions and engaging in new rhetoric and posturings.

When civil society is urged to take a stand in the national interest, that normally means a wake up call for the most representative national bodies - for instance, organised labour, religious, cultural, business, women, youth and human rights organisations.

While they determine how to mobilise for methodical, effective action, in a manner that expands rather than diminishes racial harmony and the rue of law, to end the madness of 'slow fire/more fire' politics, the police have to significantly improve their delivery capacity in FINDING the destroyers of state property and the killers involved in the spate of murders and armed robberies.

The mysterious shooting death of Donna McKinnon and the killings of the 'East Coast trio', including the lad shot to death along with his father, must be found. Neither must be given priority over the other, less fears of political/racial bias are fortified.

Success is also urgently required in the destruction by fire of state properties, the most recent being the fire of mysterious origin that completely destroyed the Ministry of Housing building, after THREE earlier attempts had failed.

In the political circumstances of what happened on the day of that particular fire tragedy, and considering the unsuccessful earlier attempts by arsonists, it is a cruel joke, at the expense of intelligent people, for the PNC/R to suggest that the fire may have been an internal job, thereby implicitly casting doubts on the integrity of those who worked there.

GPSU, 'Stabroek News'
In one of its more surprising statements, conciliatory in tone, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) said that the fire "represents an enormous setback for the current programmes of government, for the employees of the various departments affected and for the people of Guyana whom they are committed to serve..."

The GPSU has offered to be of assistance, including helping to identify alternative locations for workers, and in encouraging workers to settle for some temporary inconveniences as a consequence of the fire tragedy. The government needs to respond to the GPSU's offer.

For its part, the 'Stabroek News' in an editorial of June 18 on that fire tragedy, made a very telling observation after raising some very relevant points, including its urging of the government to come up with a firm and enlightened policy for the fire service department, and a complete review of the security of government buildings.

The editorial noted: "It must also be said that the unthinking and bizarre slow fire/more fire campaign of the People's National Congress Reform is an added complication in this combustible environment.

"At the first hint of flames", the editorial added, "one can hear these chants from those gathered. It is not impossible that this insane and dangerous slogan has inspired some of the fiery mayhem that the country has witnessed since March 19.

"The PNC/R as it should have done long ago", said the paper, "should publicly ad forcefully repudiate this irresponsible slogan.

The devising of this catch-phrase was not the finest hour for the party's propagandists."

To the surprise of even those who, up to last week, were seeking to convey to me a different impression, to encourage a more acceptable image of the PNC/R's maximum leader, Hoyte, the 'Stabroek News' was to receive a roasting from the party's leader.

In promptly announcing that the 'slow fire/more fire' slogan "will stay", Hoyte accused the newspaper of "twisting" the "slow fire" dimension as it surfaced during the last elections campaign, to "set a trap for fools".

In a direct personal barb at the editor, the PNC/R leader accused him of wanting to "dictate" to his party what its slogans and policies should be.

The 'Stabroek News' is quite capable of a response, if needs be. But Hoyte's boastful warning that "the slogan will stay", speaks volumes of the prevailing mood of the party and its leadership, and may come haunt the PNC/R in its quest to clean up its image and be viewed as an acceptable alternative to head a government.

The regional/ international community is looking on, and can hardly be impressed. No need to ask the resident diplomats of foreign governments and international agencies.