BY: BAYTORAM RAMHARACK
Guyanese cannot fail to acknowledge, much less underestimate, the seriousness of the political quandary created by caretaker President Granger and the coalition he leads. And while it is pellucid that it is not simply a small “cabal” that is taking us into a dark place, it is equally obvious that the “sanctimonious gangsters” associated with the coalition (mainly PNC), continue to spout untruths and false narratives about unconfirmed electoral irregularities.
The fact that a cross-section of African intellectuals has refused to forcefully denounce the Granger-led political coup is an indication that their silence is an endorsement of the most shameless public rigging the world has witnessed since March 4th. Dr. David Hinds, a WPA member on the 2020 coalition list of candidates, has been the most vociferous, but unashamedly, the most unapologetic defender of the political coup. Freddie Kissoon, through his daily exposé, has bravely emerged as a champion of democracy, and, unwittingly, has now been accused of being in collaboration with the PPP/C.
The recent warning emanating from Professor Hilary Beckles, the chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Committee, is most welcome. However, I am no pessimist – Beckles’ pronouncement, like those of other CARICOM leaders previously, will unfortunately fall on the deaf ears of coalition supporters, and David Granger.
Conspicuously absent from this high stakes drama of political brinkmanship, and incremental steps towards the consolidation of a dictatorship, is a display of genuine public expressions of outrage against the riggers. It’s difficult to imagine a single country, out of 196 existing countries, where such a travesty has existed, and persisted. Here in Guyana we have an election where the players agreed to the rules of electoral politics, an election won freely and fairly by the opposition, recognized by the world as free and fair, with a recount certified as valid, together with unprecedented vocal support from CARICOM leaders, as well as support from regional and international organizations and countries.
Yet, opposition leaders seem resigned to rely solely on reactive and defensive politics, placing all their efforts into meeting every move by the coalition with a legal challenge. Political leaders are made in these defining moments of uncertainty and crisis when they “ground” with their supporters. So, why are we not witnessing Irfaan Ali, Bharrat Jagdeo, Ralph Ramkarran, Dr. Asha Kissoon, Lenox Shuman, Dr. Frank Anthony, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips, Bishop Juan Edghill, and other inheritors of the spoils of electoral victory collectively holding hands in unity and leading peaceful public protests? Imagine the publicity garnered: Lenox Shuman, dressed in his traditional Amerindian wear leading his supporters in protest!
I have suggested “safe, controlled and peaceful protests” led by leaders of the opposition, so that all necessary precautions are taken to ensure that school children are not harmed and there is no loss of life like that of 18-year-old Seedat ‘Devon’ Hansraj. I posed the question to Timothy Jonas on a recent Globespan show. Engaging in peaceful protests, however, does not mean foolishly risking one’s lives and playing into the hands of the riggers, who control the coercive arms of the state, and are now desperately seeking to grasp at any life-saving opportunity to resurrect themselves and extend their tenure.
Protests can come in many different forms, inside and outside of Guyana. Kit Nascimento (SN, July 10, 2020), a former PNC supporter who compiled the speeches of Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, gave us an insight as to why protests are currently avoided in Guyana when he said that “these are men and women who are conniving, ruthless, ignorant … in their intent” and who “feel secure that they can do this supported by our military and our police”. Sensing this reluctance, Nascimento expressed a worrying concern for the future of democracy in Guyana when he noted that “It is fast becoming essential that the newly appointed Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Godfrey Bess, and the Com-missioner of Police, Leslie James, decide and state publicly whether or not they will uphold their oath of office, to which they are sworn, to the Constitution.”
What this all means is that caretaker Granger has mastered the art of dictatorial politics from his mentor. He has been preparing the ground for this occasion, strategically placing his “squaddies” in key positions of power. Granger knew very well what he meant when he prophetically echoed these ominous words in Atlanta in 2017 to diaspora supporters: “you have to ask yourself how the PNC gained office in 1964.
Ask how the PNC remained in office and what it did to do so. Ask yourself how the PNC regained office in 2015 and ask yourself how would the PNC retain office in 2020”. He will drag this impasse on for as long as possible, through the fig leaf of legal challenges, and skullduggery by GECOM collaborators. When this political crisis is over, Granger must be held squarely responsible for another crisis he has created and encouraged: the disruptive forces among his supporters who are determined, at all cost, to prevent the opposition from governing Guyana.
It’s time opposition leaders take this struggle to a political level. At a minimum, they should be united in calling for international personal and political sanctions against members of the rigging cabal, while leading their supporters in “safe, controlled peaceful protests” in and out of Guyana to demonstrate their gratitude for the support shown by regional states and the international community in preserving our democracy.