Teach the Children: African Guyanese must be frank with our leaders – Dr. David Hinds

 Jan 20, 2019 – By Dr. David Hinds

A little-known calypso by Kelvin Pope aka The Mighty Duke titled “Teach the Children” is fresh on my mind. It is part of a module on historical memory for a course on Black Political Music that I am currently teaching. In that calypso, Duke sought to educate listeners about the profound history of Africa; he contended that such memory was critical to the cultural health of the nation.

I cite Duke to make the point that here in Guyana, we are constantly guilty of not teaching the children, because we avoid the essence of our politics in the quest for political power.    

Guyana is once again at the political crossroads. Many observers would say that this outcome was inevitable. How often have the Guyanese people provided the leaders with openings for a political solution and they, the leaders, have found ways to squander them? It’s fascinating to hear the discourses at all levels of our society in the wake of the no-confidence vote. Except for a few instances, those discourses avoid the essence of the problem.

Even if Mr. Charrandass Persaud is found guilty of taking bribes for his vote, or the court finds that his vote was invalid given his dual citizenship, or the court rules that the parliamentary majority is thirty-four, the essence of the problem that brought us to this point would be left unaddressed.
From 1992, when the first democratic elections were held in almost three decades, to the present, our country has moved from one crisis to the other, and each time we find a way to pretend that the impasse is new. Only three years ago, we had a no-confidence motion which was not brought to a vote by the then governing party.

Supporters of the ruling coalition choose to forget that the AFC had alleged that parliamentarians from APNU were being targeted by the PPP to vote against the motion; that it got such information from very credible sources. The AFC and APNU never leveled with the Guyanese people on the truthfulness of those charges—they got power, and everything was forgotten. But here we are today pretending that that episode never occurred and, in the process, fooling ourselves that the “Judas” label that is pinned on Persaud is unique to him.

The truth of the matter is that the current crisis was not caused by Charrandass’ vote. His vote was the outcome of a larger problem that has plagued Guyana since the 1950s—the inability of our political leaders to manage political power in the interest of those to whom the power belongs.
In other words, it was the mismanagement of political power by the Coalition that brought us to this point. Charrandass’ vote was merely the occasion for the simmering contradictions of the Coalition’s tenure to explode. The results of the LGE only a few weeks before had brought those contradictions to the open, but our collective penchant for denying the obvious did not allow for any serious self-examination.

Recall that when the PPP lost in 2015, it blamed its defeat on the complacency of its supporters. Like the current rulers, it refused to acknowledge that it was its gross mismanagement of power that led to that outcome. Unfortunately, those who succeeded them learned nothing from those mistakes. How can leaders continue to make the same mistakes repeatedly?

The obvious answer lies in the inability to manage power—the personalization of that power to the point that they come to believe that it is their God-given property.

Therefore, as I witness the daily rage of the mainly African Guyanese supporters of the Coalition, I realize how important it is to teach the children, even if it means being nailed to the cross. It saddens me to hear some African Guyanese make silly excuses for the government as if somehow that would change the situation.

The daily rants against the PPP and the references to the dark days of Jagdeo are understood. But what is ignored is the fact that the outgoing government did absolutely nothing to structurally overturn the deadly regime left by the PPP. We African Guyanese must get that latter fact into our heads rather than just continue to spout empty talking points.

The long tenure of the PPP in office brought home a salient fact that we knew before that party took power— the rules of our democracy do not throw up fair ethnic outcomes. The ethnic group with a larger population is the guaranteed “winner” and the ones with smaller populations are guaranteed “losers”.

The PPP exploited this situation to its fullest to construct an ethnically imbalanced political economy that outlived its tenure in office. In the process, the very socio-cultural foundations of the society underwent a serious battering. By the time the PPP left the office, ours was a lawless society from top to bottom—the badness penetrated every facet of our lives. If ever there was a “wild west” in the Caribbean, it was the Guyana left by the PPP.

It took some rebellious Indian Guyanese to pool their electoral resources with African Guyanese to throw the PPP out, despite the rules being in that party’s favour. This is a fact that African Guyanese need to get into our heads—we did not do it on our own. Some courageous PNC and WPA leaders came up with a strategy to win in spite of the rules. APNU was more than a coalition of parties—it was a rescue act that was later joined by the AFC. The APNU+AFC government was more than a government—it was a rescue act aided by a razor-thin winning margin.

It meant, therefore, that the government had a responsibility to use its power to finish the rescue act. The first order of business was to try to change the rules to throw up a fairer ethnic outcome. This is where constitutional reform came in. The larger section of its constituency, African Guyanese, are more vulnerable to the current rules. Yet the government didn’t lift a finger to change the rules. That is the lesson that African Guyanese need to focus on, as they try to put their leaders back in power.

Therefore, I am begging African Guyanese to open your eyes and be smart. Stop denying that our leaders messed up. The very “Indian Judases” you’re now cussing out helped us to get out of the PPP’s vice, and put our leaders in power. It is our leaders who ignored the delicate situation and refused to do the right thing. We must stop the nonsense that “they only had three years.”

When you have a one-seat majority, you have to govern as if each day is your last day in office. Many of us are too young to remember when John Compton, the late St Lucian Prime Minister, refused to govern with a one-seat majority and went back to the electorate for a bigger mandate. Any serious politician should know that a one-seat majority, especially by a coalition, is a very sticky situation that calls for creative management.

Ranting against the bad PPP days would not help African Guyanese. We must be frank with our leaders that they let us down, and get them to understand that if given another chance they must do better. We must be frank with them that Executive Power Sharing by law is our best guarantee of sharing political power in Guyana.

We must tell them that they cannot win as a partnership and govern as a single-party. We must let them know that we are tired of always making excuses for them. And most of all, we must stop cussing Indian Guyanese, because we cannot win any election without their help.

More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website http://www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to dhinds6106@aol.com

Mighty Duke – Teach The Children

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