Life is a funny thing and politics particularly so. At the end of WWII and at the dawn of internal self-government in the West Indies, the region was rather taken with the idea of a federation, uniting the British colonies. Noticeably absent from the ultimately ill-fated Federation was British Guiana. Cheddi Jagan and company felt that joining the Federation would lease their power to others in the Caribbean, who were black, which would, to them, be disadvantageous to and unpopular with Indo-Guyanese.
In the early 60s, bowing to American pressure to prevent another ‘Cuba’ in the Caribbean, the British contrived the proportional representation system for general elections, which resulted in the electoral weakening of the Marxist Jagan’s PPP, and allowing Forbes Burnham and his PNC to ascend to government, in the early years propped up by the conservative and American-supported D’Aguiar and his United Force.
The present political situation unfolding in Guyana, therefore, is pregnant with irony. Today, the PPP welcome, with open arms, the sentiment, judgments, and interventions by regional heads, courts and other prominent persons. Now, too, the Americans and British, among other international actors, are telling Burnham’s political progeny in the APNU+AFC that it is time to go, to make way for Jagan’s successors in the PPP/C.
Politics truly is a funny thing.
When I reflected upon these shifting political sands, I recalled the sentiment of our own Prime Minister Mottley in an interview with Canada’s CBC News. In defending Barbados’ support for Canada’s bid for the then-vacant temporary seat on the UN Security Council, she said that Barbados does not have permanent friends, but we have permanent values. This recognizes that states, organizations and people change over time in character and complexion and that it is folly to bind yourself completely to an entity for eternity. Rather, your support for an individual or an entity should be predicated upon their adherence to important values. In my view, that is not only a sound guiding principle for foreign policy, but it would serve individuals well also.
It is regrettable, therefore, that some in Guyana and elsewhere in the region would support in one way or another, the machinations of the APNU. That support represents an abandonment of basic values of integrity and fairness. Let us be clear, in its fourth month, the Guyana electoral saga has absolutely nothing to do with party, policy or personality. The time to litigate whether the PPP or APNU would make a better government is long past. To discuss the racialisation of Guyanese politics or whether a PPP government would be good for Afro-Guyanese is undoubtedly irrelevant. The only relevant consideration at this late hour is the winner of the recount exercise, and there is a near-universal consensus that that is the PPP/C and that GECOM must be allowed finally to declare that incontrovertible fact.
Is the fact that the fraudsters look like you sufficient grounds to abandon your values, I wonder? A person is little more than a fallen leaf in the autumn without holding fast to certain basic mores. Prominent among those are the same integrity and fairness. Most of life is comprised of a great deal of uncertainty and ‘grey areas’. Sometimes, however, an incident is so clear that there can be no room for debate; there is only one correct reaction. In this instance, that is absolute abhorrence at what is being perpetrated by APNU and their sycophants.
Circumstances change as they clearly have done since the 1960s. Sometimes, questionable motivations for some geopolitical maneuverings aside, what must not change is our individual commitment to guiding principles. Yesterday, the PPP might have been wrong and tomorrow they may be. However, today, it is APNU at fault and it is against that kind of anti-democratic despotism that we must all fight. Therein lies the broader lesson. No matter the rapid change in the direction of the winds, or the shifting sands of political positions or the changed tunes of various actors, in all of that ready chaos which life and politics serves up, if an individual holds firm to basic principles, you will always be on the right side of history, in the end.
17-year-old Barbadian student1