BY: TARRON KHEMRAJ
It is now clear that we are witnessing a crawling or slow-moving coup d’ etat. This coup reflects vintage strategy involving time and patience, as well as surreptitious extreme delegation of duties for plausible deniability. The entire slow-moving coup – in collusion with GECOM and other sections of society – to overthrow the legally-elected Irfaan Ali was planned by a small group of elites from APNU+AFC and other groups. Since 2016, all intellectual capital was invested in retaining power and little was left for pressing issues like the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with ExxonMobil and a national industrial policy for securing the sugarcane industry.
The PNC+AFC negotiators were not only befuddled by high-school algebra embedded in the legal clauses of the PSA, but also failed to realize immediately that profit oil will be paid in crude oil, requiring an early strategy to market the asset before first oil. The ethno-elites are motivated by the ambition to capture and control resources such as land, gold and oil – the revenue stream from which are volatile and probabilistic.
However, there will be the fig leaf of multi-racialism involving a few Indo-Guyanese careerists, talk men, and idea-less and prado-loving status seekers. I am certain the prado-loving status seekers had no say in the planning and execution of the crawling coup, just like they had no say in the final destruction of the sugar industry. Therefore, we can expect some patronage will trickle down to the PNC/AFC base in the form of an expanded civil service (wage bill is currently at an unprecedented 8% of GDP), etc., and flow laterally to a few Indo-Guyanese careerists and businessmen. There might be another careerist Shahabudeen looking for an international job; therefore, eager to draft and enhance the loophole-filled constitution to promote the authoritarian regime. By the way, I looked at his early research and can say it would not have passed a blind peer-review process; hence, drafting the Tanzanian-derived authoritarian constitution (see Prof. R. W. James’ “The Constitution of Guyana”, Transition, Special Issue 35 – 36) for Burnham was his nomination ticket for a presence in the international forum.
As I have argued over the years, the loopholes in the constitution benefit those with de facto power and penalize those who can only hope to hold on to de jure power. Professor Rudy James essentially makes this point if you read him carefully. If you don’t believe me, perform the following thought experiment: would the PPP/C have been able to retain government for two years after the no-confidence vote?
The PPP/C and many others, including the authors of a poorly reasoned Diaspora Column in yesterday’s Stabroek News (June 30), continue to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the following two embedded structures of the Burnham-Shahabudeen constitution: (i) the loophole-ridden document benefits the more powerful side in an asymmetric power relation; and (ii) the constitution promotes incentives requiring both sides of the divide not to cooperate as in the canonical prisoners’ dilemma. Therefore, the constitution makes the ethno-social dilemmas worse. The constitutional ‘reforms’ following the violence that started just after the 1997 general election did not remove these two embedded structures. The PPP/C, therefore, has chosen to fight on the battlefield the ethno-mobilized PNC + WPA picks for it.
The masses of Indo-Guyanese will be the biggest losers in this arrangement. A great deal of effort will be deployed towards winning over Indigenous support for the one-party dictatorship. The problem is this kind of single-party authoritarian government cannot deliver development given the pro-ethnic strategic vote and the ethnic security dilemmas. No doubt the supporters of the PPP will not cooperate and some will resist – hence a continuation of the tit-for-tat conflict that assumed a new dispensation from the 1997 election.
Finally, please allow me to comment on the legalistic mumbo jumbo coming out from this political crisis. The excessive legalism – law for its own sake – has caused me to question the legal training at UWI. It is as though the law exists without context, common sense and advice from other areas of expertise. I have observed people with diplomas, rectangular certificates displayed on walls, arguing over nebulous clauses without examining whether it is possible the PPP/C could have rigged 115,000 votes. How is it possible for the PPP/C to rig 115, 000 votes in a decentralized election where votes are counted at the place of poll?
I worked out the odds that the PPP rigged 300 polling stations in Region 4 and this is the probability I got: 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000032989. For all practical purposes, the probability the PPP/C can systematically rig the Region 4 election, where the votes are counted at the polling stations, is zero. This is why Burnham rigged in the old days at a central location at the army’s headquarter in Georgetown. This is why it was important for the GECOM of 2020 to fix the result at a central location. It is a “logistical nightmare” to systematically rig at many polling stations in Region 4 in order to determine the election result.