The political crisis is weakening the nation
Stabroek News
March 11, 2004

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Dear Editor,

The modern political history of Guyana has been influenced and shaped to a great extent by external forces. As a nation emerging from the anti - colonial era we shared this paradox with many developing countries.

Guyana has over the years, developed both bilateral and multilateral relations with the major western nations - USA, UK, Canada and the EU. Relations have also been developed at the regional level with member nations of Caricom and internationally with the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation of American States (OAS).

These external forces in the past and at present have, and continue to influence political developments in Guyana in varying degrees. It is highly unlikely that this situation will change in the immediate future. This is the reality we have to live with for sometime in the future. If we accept this as a given we therefore should have very little difficulty in recognizing that it makes good political sense for the internal forces - political and others - involved in struggling to bring about political change in Guyana that is compatible with the people's and the nation's interest, to build a new historic partnership with the Western powers, Caricom, OAS and the wider international community (UN), which is qualitatively different from that which presently exists.

This is now an urgent national imperative - given the criminal degeneration of the state. The magnitude of this problem has impacted negatively on every area of national life. Given our resource deficiency both human and material, the weakness of many national institutions and institutionalization of corruption in the society, the situation at the least can be referred to as dismal. We cannot now or in the near future handle this new monster by ourselves. Only a concerted effort of a wide coalition of internal forces and the goodwill of those major Western powers with historical links to the country - UK, USA and EU and that of our regional partners, Caricom and the OAS, and the international community - UN - can save Guyana from becoming a "narcotic and failed state" - which Professor Clive Thomas, of the Working People's Alliance (WPA), so eloquently demonstrated a few months ago in a series of articles on the deterioration of Guyana's state. It can be said that the failure of the national movement in the 50s was that it had made political demands far above what was possible at that time given the balance of forces internally and externally. In summary, we misread the historic moment. The failure in the 60s was due to the refusal of the major leaders and their parties to recognize that the ethnic divisions of the masses were profound. This was reflected in the people voting along ethnic lines. When the possibilities of independence came those divisions exploded into ethnic political violence as a result of the ethnic contest for economic and political power. Since the political change that took place in 1992 is closer to the present we must look at this period to understand how we often shot ourselves in the knee. The run up to 1992 saw intense US diplomacy to influence the rebirth of democracy and free and fair elections in Guyana. Subsequent US economic and other assistance was tied to progress in these areas. The position of the US on Guyana at that period was, in a major way, as a result of the end of the cold war between the USA and the USSR. The WPA, recognizing the changed international situation and its likely impact on politics in the country, in the interest of national unity and reconciliation proposed in parliament through its then MP Mr. Eusi Kwayana, a "national dialogue" on the political and economic crisis in the nation. This got the support of all the parties in the house. This was one of the few occasions of an expression of national unity in Guyana. However, the dialogue that resulted achieved nothing because the late former President, Mr. Desmond Hoyte, insisted that he was only interested in a national dialogue on the economy and not the political crisis that the nation was faced with. In the end, former US President, Mr. Jimmy Carter, came to Guyana and persuaded Mr. Hoyte to agree to political reform of the electoral system, which resulted in elections that brought about a change in government.

If the unwillingness of Mr. Hoyte to use the opportunity offered by Kwayana's proposal on behalf of the WPA for a national dialogue to reconcile the nation could be explained as the logic of power, the demise of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) was caused by the main parliamentary opposition party, People's Progressive Party (PPP), led by its late leader and former president of Guyana, Cheddi Jagan, whose preference was for a party controlled civic alliance. This was political opportunism influenced by the certainty of achieving political office on the basis of ethnic voting. It was also self serving and has proven to be self-destructive as is now being demonstrated daily.

The PPP/C leadership seems not to have benefited from the lessons of our collective failures as a nation. They have squandered the goodwill, both local and international, that came with the return of political democracy. Rather than advance democracy and good governance they took retrogressive steps in the false belief that they can do as they please because of their ethnic majority and the then position of the US and other leading western nations on elections and democracy. Today, as a consequence, we are experiencing the most profound crisis in the modern political history of the nation. Our state is becoming a criminal state. This political recklessness seriously compromises the integrity of the state and weakens the nation making it more vulnerable to the demands of the local drug barons and international drug lords who use Guyana as an important transhipment point from this hemisphere for drugs into North America and Europe. Guyana has now emerged as a serious problem for those nations as a consequence of which political change seems imminent.

It is now an urgent national duty that we begin an open and frank debate on what is acceptable political change given the present reality. Since there will be political change we will be better off as a nation if we can have a broad consensus on the parameters of this impending change - if we fail to do so we will have only ourselves to blame.

Yours faithfully,

Tacuma Ogunseye