ROAR of Ravi Dev
Back in 2009, I engaged several interlocutors such as Lincoln Lewis, Eric Philips and Freddy Kissoon et al, who, despairing of removing the PPP, which they had dubbed an “elected dictatorship”, from office, were pushing the PNC to adopt a more aggressive strategy. I pointed out in reference to Lewis: “I am just suggesting he is using an expired strategy. The change in demographics in this decade has opened up the possibilities of the politics of “in and out” rather that of “over and under”. There are no “built-in” ethnic majorities any longer. There need be no storming of the Bastille.”
The ideologues from the African Guyanese community gave short shrift to these new opportunities occasioned by the changing demographics. As the 2011 elections drew nearer, Tacuma Ogunseye rejected elections as addressing African Guyanese fears and urged them to “fight and bring Guyana to a halt” to guarantee their representatives a share of executive power”. As I wrote then, “…the fact of the matter is that Mr. Oguyense was not merely “proposing” shared governance: he was exhorting Africans to come out into the streets to bring any possibly newly-elected PPP government down to its knees to accept “shared governance” or else! To make matters clear, he went on to assure Africans that the Disciplined Forces, dominated by their “kith and kin”, would not intervene.”
Ogunseye was supported at the time by David Hinds and I pointed out: “In supporting Ogunseye’s call, Dr. Hinds had ignored the implications of what could be called Ogunseye’s Corollary on the orientation of the Disciplined Services. This, of course, formed the basis of what I had labelled “The Indian Ethnic Security Dilemma”, which acts to channelize Indian political behaviour in a defensive mode.” Since even when they won office, they could only govern at the sufferance of the organs of the state all of which have an affinity for the PNC.
Directly after the 2011 elections, I wrote: “Well here we are. The PNC addressed the leadership concerns of its constituency, rebranded itself as APNU and their voters all returned home. Indians, on the other hand, had become alienated from the PPP for a number of reasons and read into the Indian leadership of the AFC (augmented especially in Berbice by Indian native son Nagamootoo) an ethnic orientation. A substantial bloc transferred what has to be a protest vote to the AFC and reduced the PPP’s count to below 50%.”
The PPP retained the presidency and the Executive through the grace of Burnham’s peculiar plurality rule. In the 2015 elections, the PNC-as-APNU, further moderating its stance, coalesced with the AFC and actually removed the PPP from office. We had arrived at what I had assumed African Guyanese had been fighting for since 1957: overcoming the African-Guyanese Ethnic Security Dilemma. To wit, when Indian Guyanese constituted an absolute majority, if they voted as a block, they could be excluded from the executive in perpetuity.
We had arrived at the promised land where as minorities, the parties of the two larger blocks of Indian and African Guyanese would have to tailor their rhetoric and programs to attract voters outside their core constituencies to gain office. But this moderation of their programmes was exactly what David Granger refused to do after assuming power in 2015. In fact, it would seem he went out of his way to antagonise the Indian community, in general, and those who had voted for the coalition in particular. I am still amazed that there are supporters of the PNC who do not see the closure of four sugar estates and the firing of 7000 sugar workers as motivating Charandass Persaud to vote for the NCM and later for Indian Guyanese not to vote for the PNC-as APNU.
With the present bid of the PNC to first “Mingo” the elections and then insist they are not “credible” in some doubt of achieving success, the PNC and its allies have now switched to their “Plan B” – “shared governance, which they insist should be “executive shared governance”, which they forgot about in 2015.
There is no need for this imposition: 2011 and 2015 demonstrated that Guyana can have the politics of “in and out” rather than that of “over and under”, once the PPP and PNC reach outside their core constituencies. And we will have the benefit of an opposition to keep the government on its toes.
The PNC will have another chance in 2025.