June 16, 2002
There is madness in the air. If we didn’t have enough problems with crime, a radicalized political element in league with the criminals, and a supine government operating in a totally different dimension from everybody else, we now have the PNC/R talking loosely to its supporters about removing the government. It is not as if Mr Hoyte does not know full well that that is simply not an option. Leaving all the other arguments aside, he is no less conscious than anyone else that in a tiny country like this, situated as it is in this particular hemisphere, such action will not be tolerated - or at least, not tolerated for very long. In that respect, the larger framework of the state has been decreed from beyond these shores, although the rules within that framework can be, and have been locally generated, and potentially can still be changed.
Since one assumes that the PNC/R hierarchy cannot be totally out of touch with reality, one can only speculate that either the PNC/R is attempting to get a grip again on the grass roots of its constituency which has become radicalized in recent times, and/or that with a Congress coming up, rivalry is shunting the rhetoric to the right of democratic. Either way, this is dangerous talk. It leaves the party open to accusations that there is a nexus between it and a criminal campaign which itself appears to have political ends, in addition to which it gives the PNC/R little flexibility to entertain dialogue. Its supporters who are being led to believe that there is a quick fix to an intractable problem would hardly welcome a shift of direction on the part of the leadership favouring engagement with the PPP/C, when they have been assured the government will go.
How the citizens of Guyana have managed to survive the politicians thus far is perhaps one of the great mysteries of the universe, but this time around those who have stewardship of our political affairs have all really outdone themselves. It began with the Government labelling the PNC/R "terrorist," a mistake which already placed impediments in the way of dialogue, since it is difficult to negotiate with ‘terrorists.’ It proceeded with allegations that the PNC/R was behind the crime wave, which was refined to the PNC leadership being linked to the criminals, and then elements in the PNC leadership having associations with the criminals.
This too was dangerous talk if the PPP/C was not prepared to put the evidence in the public domain, and better yet, to charge someone. And it has not done so. In a situation, therefore, where the Government needed the Opposition to craft a common position on crime, it spent its time trying to score political points. And now the situation is running out of everyone’s control, if it has not done so already.
There can be few people in this nation who really need persuading that we are in great peril. There are probably few people too, who do not recognize that the Government and Opposition need to talk about the immediate crisis. But with one side having labelled the other terrorist, and the other, ostensibly, at any rate, now talking sedition, it is difficult to see them sitting down together.
Whether given the circumstances, the weary members of whatever remains of ‘civil society’ can summon up the will-power in these unreal times to apply public and private pressure to President Jagdeo to extend an invitation to Mr Hoyte to discuss the crime situation and then apply the same pressure to the Leader of the Opposition to accept, remains to be seen. It would probably require, of course, that they negotiate the agenda between the two sides as well.
For such pressure to have any hope of succeeding, however, the politicians have to stop the rhetoric. On the one side, Dr Luncheon’s remarks during his press briefings have been particularly unhelpful to the situation over the past months, and now on the other, as already noted we have the openly anti-democratic statements from the PNC/R. A little silence from both Freedom House and Congress Place would allow those who might just be prepared to mediate between the two some room to negotiate.