March 1, 1998
For those of an oracular bent the sky was full of portents last Thursday. The darkness which stole across the land in the early afternoon cast its shadow not just over Joseph Hadfield's handsome edifice and the rituals going on both within and without, but over Guyana's political future as well. Of course, all right-thinking people have condemned the stoning of the President's car, the Government openly accusing the PNC of being behind the demonstration. If it is indeed the case that the PNC was in some way connected to the protest, then the prognostications are gloomy. However, if it was not connected, then those prognostications are even more so, because it would mean that the party has lost control of its own supporters.
Thursday's events took place in full view of two rather stunned looking CARICOM prime ministers, who subsequently were conveyed almost silently from these shores, their final press conference cancelled. Nor were the two wise men much in evidence. As the framers of the Hermanston Accord, one might have expected that they would have had more of a public presence, and that together with the Prime Ministers they would have had something to report to the Guyanese public. Not so. Sightings of them were rare, and their voices were hardly heard. The population has now inferred the obvious, namely, that the mission was a failure in a larger sense, and that the distinguished visitors from the neighbouring states were overwhelmed by the labyrinthine and intractable nature of Guyanese politics. As far as peace and harmony in Guyana's political firmament are concerned, therefore, there has been a seventy per cent eclipse.
Exactly what happens next is unclear. Has CARICOM washed its hands of us, or have the leaders and the knights just retreated temporarily to rethink and regroup? Whatever the case we have temporarily, at least, been thrown back on our own resources. We can only hope that the next items on the menu, i.e. those connected to the audit get underway as soon as possible. We can also hope that the parties begin a dialogue again at the highest levels, to see how tension can be reduced. However, as was stated in yesterday's front page comment, CARICOM needs some official representative here to broker discussion under the terms of the Accord between the two parties; the jetting in and out of CARICOM leaders should be confined to those occasions when some kind of breakthrough has occurred. The obvious man to undertake this task, as we said yesterday, is clearly Mr Hugh Chomondeley, who has already expended so much energy and time on the problem. His influence as a negotiator, however, undoubtedly would be considerably enhanced if he were given official status.
There is one detail about Thursday's events, which is not directly political, but which bears comment, and that is the protection afforded the presidential motorcade by the police. They were not outside Parliament in sufficient numbers, they do not appear to have been adequately prepared for any trouble and to all appearances they did not call out enough backup assistance to cover the President's departure from the Parliament Buildings, after the demonstration of hostility displayed by the crowd on her entry. Given what happened, the police need to address very seriously the matter of the security cover given to the President - and all other politicians, for that matter - on such public occasions. The future tranquillity of the nation is overly dependent on such precautions.