How did we get here?
By A.A Fenty
October 11, 2002
Perhaps my not being as "analytical" or profound as some would require me to be, I will not dare to contextualise these views in the fifties to eighties period. To me, the best and worst of times in our once-glorious, mostly disastrous political development.
No, my sequential version of how we arrived at this sordid state of affairs to this week - ignores, perhaps unscientifically and unjustifiably - the historical, political, sociological background and the allegedly "complex" genesis and nature of our national condition today. There are, of course, those much more - qualified and "certified" to do so. Rather, my account, simple - not simplistic - begins in December 1997.
The urban-based, largely Afro-Guyanese supporters of the People's National Congress (PNC), led by a disappointed leadership, had never come to terms with their post - Cold War - Jimmy Carter defeat of 1992. Twenty-eight years of real power, during which this dear land of endless potential, rose to some fine moments locally and internationally then plummetted to the depths of need, dependence and poverty, above only Haiti, had come to an end. Despite the reality of race-based politics and elections which gave the People's Progressive Party the "numbers" and a permanent advantage electorally, the PNC again made their followers believe that they had won something in December 1997, or that they had been cheated outright. Christmas-time protests 1997 were staged. To me thus began the notorious, destabilising sub-culture of illegal demonstrations and criminal violence-cum-protest.
(For the young ladies, between 17 and 20 years old, I continue this "Revision for emphasis" of course, they are my views in my column that my opponents are not obliged to read - or accept. I know however, that thousands will be reminded!)
January 1998 saw the intensification of violent street protests related to objections at the December Elections results and at Janet Jagan being President. Expressions of dissent, well organised and orchestrated, reached an all-time low as protesters used her ethnicity and their obeah in the streets to "get she out." Justice Desiree Bernard's ruling incensed the comrades and almost daily mayhem followed.
For the first half of 98 Georgetown was made hellishly uncomfortable. Caricom did what they never dared under Burnham. They intervened. Upon invitation. The Herdmanston accord, Mr. Hoyte's "forensic" audit of the election count by Caricom and another peace meeting in St. Lucia between Jagan and Hoyte did not satisfy the losers. I'm arguing that, despite the complex, multi-faceted history of our problems this 98 compaign gave the impetus and permanence of lawlessness we now experience. Janet Jagan's discarding of the Court Order can never be any excuse for a planned strategy of long-term destabilisation to make the society ungovernable.
And a useful adjunct, naturally, was the legal recourse to an elections petition. Win, lose or draw an election petition is always a good "sidearm" weapon to have in a loser's pocket! (It even worked beautifully for the PNC towards the end of the PPP's truncated 1997 - 2000 term!) But I've already touched upon why petitions are filed - as explained by my erstwhile PNC comrade and I would have loved to see Justice Singh's "vitiated" decision challenged.
But the 2001 Elections came and have gone. But not so the new sub-culture of protests and violence and race-based engendered hatreds. After the Public Service Union, in 1999, aided by certain Sophia planners, showed the PPP/C how Georgetown could, indeed be regarded as "Guyana", through their justified two-month strike, various issues have been thrown up to justify and demand unrest: extra-judicial killings, discrimination and marginalisation, et al.
Throw in, during the 1999-2001 "interregnum", the powerful dirty media politics, expertly and effectively executed by chosen teleactivists - on the gullible mentality of urban supporters who need to believe; add the deaths of the followers' hero-bandits and the highlighting of the socio-economic plight of particular communities, and you had a tailor-made situation which could challenge any fearful - or indifferent PPP Government.
To me, in this mix of Opposition-generated destabilisation were two powerful elements peculiar to the PPP predicament: (1) their hundreds of thousands of supporters are not usually vocal or demonstrative - like volatile, worked-up manipulated 1763 Georgetown, nothing-to-lose protesters. (The PNC thousands always appear to be more, and justified) (2) There are justifiable allegations of governmental discrimination and incompetence. Whether awards of contracts or frauds in governmental offices, these injustices are never fully investigated nor ventilated. To me, the administration could have gained so much by penalising their errant comrades. The PNC therefore, capitalised on allegations and suspicions. And if I have not enumerated the dozens of accusations against the government - some of which it would be guilty of - it's because no amount of Government discrimination can justify today's partially sponsored criminality. Then came the post-elections 2001 assaults!
"Slow-fiah, mo-fiah" politics heralded attempted ethnic boycotts, village-based terror tactics and the sanctioning of "retribution/revenge" killings of policemen. A February 2002 jail-break, well-planned and executed, precipitated a crime-wave which threatens to make even Jamaica appear as a Sunday School Paradise.
(Forget the fact that on April 8, 2001 the Opposition Leader, at the Square of the Revolution, spoke of "the start of a Revolution" in Buxton, Golden Grove, Plaisance and Victoria, or that a handbill that day, displayed a bomb as a logo, or that there is actual evidence placing certain politicians in the company of criminals. Just appreciate where we have arrived at now.)
In other African, Latin American or Asian countries, politicians sometimes utilise disillusioned malcontents, rebels and guerillas, with political motivation, to assist their ambitions. Bullets where ballots can't help. Is it that politicians here decide that since dialogue is not "working", or that inclusive governance is too distant, banditry can help? You work it out. Alas notice how the criminality has spiralled out of control. Whether payback drug hits or open season by petty criminals, the monster is beginning to devour its own! Poor us - the innocent. We are now in the crossfire. And the politicians who aided and abetted between March and August are still safe - for now. Do you still wonder how we got here?
Peace - and ponder
1) Did Dr. Luncheon ever offer crucial medical advice to Desmond at a particular period? Yes/no.
2) Thoughtful, provocative, frightening - the Stabroek Editorial on 'crime machine well-financed' (Mon. Oct. 7, 2002)
3) Last week Tuesday's rumours in the wake of the kidnap in the city were varied and many. One that scared me most was that a politician called the kidnapped victim's family to announce his imminent release! Good thing it was only rumour!
4) Coming next week: What is Parole? and "The Media at Crime Scenes and in the hospitals."
5) After the shutdown, I feel that the business people will donate time and resources to patrol the villages and the backlands. And will offer jobs, opportunity and subsidies to the marginalised.
6) Would the Barbados African Conference have expelled the half-white Bob Marley, Mariah Carey, Jimmy Adams or Halle Berry? Oh, so it's an attitude? How you define yourself?
7) Rickey Singh got it right: 20-16 in T-T. But is there any more to that result? Congrats to the shrewd incumbent however.
`Til next week!