ROAR of Ravi Dev
Vincent Alexander has chided President Irfan Ali for insisting he will not speak to Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon until the latter quits referring to him as “illegitimate”. At a very mundane level, President Ali could also very well have referred to Harmon as an “illegitimate” Opposition Leader since the same constitutionally sanctioned process legitimized (or delegitimized) the occupancy of both offices. To wit, the March 2nd General Elections that were finally declared by GECOM on August 2 to certify that the PPPC had garnered more votes than APNU/AFC and as such, as head of the former’s list, he was sworn in by Chancellor of the Judiciary as President of the Republic of Guyana. But President Ali has not gone down that very slippery slope of violating constitutional rules and norms that has characterized the PNC’s posture under David Granger since 2015.
In principle, I agree with Vincent’s point that there must be communication between leaders, but contextually, those communications must be based on some commonly accepted rules of engagement. He cited as normative precedents, the cases of South Africa with Mandela and De Clerk to end apartheid; the Northern Ireland talks that led to the ceasefire and the Palestine and Israeli engagements that are still stalemated. But in none of those instances did the leaders of the opposing parties participate in democratic elections in which the side that attempted unsuccessfully to rig those elections – to the condemnation of the entire world – now claims that the constitutionally sworn in winner was “illegitimate”. In those three scenarios, the struggle, as a matter of fact was – and continues to be in the case of Israel-Palestine – about the need for the affected people to be represented in Government through democratic elections of one man-one vote.
Vincent then went on to cite the efforts of Cheddi Jagan to engage Forbes Burnham between 1955 to 1985 towards the goal of forging “national unity” through a coalition of their bases. He noted “that initial effort floundered (sic)” but elided Burnham’s betrayal of the unity to be installed into office by the colonial power in 1964, when he rebuffed Jagan’s offer of unity. In the 1977 talks, Jagan was driven by the Russian-fostered policy of “Critical Support” and Dr. Walter Rodney’s position that the PNC was part of the problem and could not be part of the solution, was a major factor in generating multi-racial support for the WPA. By 1985, Burnham had wrecked Guyana and was looking for a life raft.
The situation today is different. After fifty years of independence, we have had governments alternating democratically after their elected terms via the ballot boxes. This long sought after circumstance is due to changed demographics that saw the Indian-Guyanese base of the PPP lose their majority. This had created an Ethnic Security Dilemma for the African-Guyanese base of the PNC which could have remained excluded permanently from government if the groups voted along ethnic lines. That this is no longer the case as was shown in 2015 after the PNC went into an alliance as APNU and into a coalition with the AFC to win the 2015 elections.
It is still mind boggling that the PNC-as-APNU completely alienated the voters brought in by the AFC after 2015 and attempted to cling on to power through the crude tactics of Mingo. All they had to do was execute policies that reached across Guyana’s ethnic divide. Granger intended to rule through his de facto control of all state institutions – the Indian Security Dilemma that remains in place. The PPPC, on the other hand, effectively capitalized on the PNC’s shooting itself in the foot and mobilized enough votes from outside its core constituency, to return to office.
Rather than exploit the Indian Security Dilemma, the PNC should allow democracy to take root in Guyana. Harmon as Opposition Leader can signal his willingness to seek this goal by accepting he is the legitimate Opposition Leader and Irfaan Ali is the legitimate President, as mandated by the constitution. That constitution has provided the legitimate and legal route to challenge the elections results – the elections petitions, which the PNC has filed.
Unless the Courts rule otherwise, Irfaan Ali will remain the legitimate President until the next democratic elections.