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Friday, February 10, 2006
The Alliance For Change is yet to present an alternative vision (Stabroek News)- (See AFC response below)


Wednesday, January 25th 2006
Dear Editor,

Except for a brief letter during the early frenzy surrounding the birth of the AFC, I have refrained from commenting publicly on the advent of this new political entity. Any new political party needs to be given a chance to show in what direction it is going. The AFC has had enough time to do that. Further, I think the advent of the AFC is the culmination of the work that many of us have done since 1997 in advancing what my colleague, Andaiye, calls "an alternative pole." I will come back to this later. I hope my comments here will be taken in the spirit in which they are presented-an interest in advancing, not retarding, the struggle for a solution to our national problem.

Unfortunately, the AFC has presented little or nothing by way of vision. A thorough understanding of the challenges that Guyana faces or a clear statement of how it intends to approach these does not buttress its rhetoric of "change". For example, there is no clear statement on how the AFC intends to deal with the question of Race, Governance and Shared Nationhood, the country's principal problem.

However, a few things seem clear about the AFC's thinking. First, it thinks it can do very well in the upcoming elections. Second, it intends to participate in the upcoming elections under any conditions. Third, it seems more concerned about the AFC's survival rather than a national solution. Fourth, it thinks the goodwill from sections of the population is the result of the party's leadership. Fifth, its interest in a real Third Force is based on AFC's terms and under AFC leadership. I have arrived at these conclusions from my reading of the AFC's political moves, but more importantly by a lack of any clear statements to the contrary.

Let's zero in on a critical issue. The AFC and GTF have said that they would have nothing to do with the PNC and the PPP. In a normal situation this may probably make sense, as those two parties individually and in tandem have been most responsible for the political decay that has been visited on Guyana these last five decades. It is also suicidal for those who present themselves as new leaders to align themselves with one of these parties or the other-that is tantamount to ganging up with one race or the other. But if the objective is not simply to replace the PNC and the PPP but to replace the present mechanism by which government is arrived at then you have to have the PPP and the PNC at the table.

Only people who hold a narrow view of the country's future can ignore these two parties at this particular juncture. If the objective is to lay the groundwork for the realization of the hitherto elusive national community based on racial unity, then it is foolish to ignore the PPP and the PNC. We have to start from where we are and not where we want to be. Does anyone think that there can be a political solution in Guyana without the PPP and the PNC? If the AFC and GTF were to create a minor miracle by winning a majority of the vote do they think they can govern Guyana with the PPP and the PNC in opposition?

Supporters of the AFC, in particular, seem to be making an elementary mistake: they are trying to fight the PPP and the PNC on their own turf. They are making elections the cornerstone of their program. They are going around the country shaking hands and sharing out gifts, but doing very little to educate people and organize them to begin to solve their problems. Like the traditional parties, the AFC's promise to the people seems to be "Put us in power and we will solve the problems." Can they beat the PNC and PPP in that arena?

History is a great lesson. The party that came closest to effectively undermining the PPP and the PNC was the pre-1992 WPA. It was able to do so largely because it presented to the public something radically different from the PPP and the PNC agendas. In effect it presented a clear, present and future alternative to those two parties.

But most importantly, the WPA moved the arena of contestation from the ballot box to the highways and villages and workplaces, because it was clear that the ballot box was not the immediate answer.

As I said above, the AFC is yet to present an alternative vision. It seems as if sections of the party are falling for the simplistic notion that Guyana's problems can be solved by "bright" and "independent" young men changing parties. Guyana has been held back by a combination of historical and global factors. There is little that can be done about the global factors, but visionary leadership can lead to a solution of the historical factors. The AFC, or any political entity has to confront the racial problem not with showmanship but with ideas and the will to fight for them.

Every now and then, even in the toughest situations, political openings emerge. These openings do not come overnight. They require constant work. While two of the principal leaders of the AFC were in the two big parties trying to do the impossible of bringing about change from the inside, others stayed outside and did the possible-fight for an alternative approach. It is that pressure, largely at the level of political discourse that kept political space open for forces other than the PNC and the PPP. The two AFC leaders did not have to fight for political space-they walked out of their parties and found that space ready. It is the CN Sharmas, Freddy Kissoons, Tacauma Ogunseyes, Sherwood Lowes, Ravi Devs, Rupert Roopnaraines, CY Thomas', Andaiyes, Clarence Ellis', Eusi Kwayanas, some of the Talk Show hosts and newspaper columnists, the Stabroek News and Kaieteur News, WPA, GAP ROAR, Red Thread, ACDA, the Amerindian Associations and others who have created this space.

Now the AFC is behaving as though it owns that space and in the process is wasting it. These leaders seem to be listening to the king- makers rather than to the country's living history. One of the leaders was reported in the press as calling on others to join "their movement". What movement? The anti-PPP/PNC movement in this country did not start when these two lawyers left their parties. The AFC leaders must recognize this reality or they will add precious little to the country's forward movement.

There is only one plausible short-term road to a political solution in Guyana at this juncture: the realization of a Government of National Unity. This is what history holds up before us and what Guyana has been putting off since 1961. The WPA has long arrived at that position. ROAR has arrived there. The PNC, even as it boasts of electoral virility, has expressed its preference for this approach. The PPP, despite its post-1992 folly, does have a history of favouring power sharing. Joey Jagan has spoken pointedly about his preference for coalition politics. Where is the AFC on this question?

Yours faithfully,

David Hinds

2006-01-28: The AFC has been engaged in meaningful dialogue with most of the opposition parties -
An open letter to Br. David Hinds

Dear David,

Thank you for your interest in the future well being of the AFC and promoting the movement as having creditability and influence to change the political culture and landscape of Guyana.

At last count according to GECOM, some thirty-one political parties had registered their intention to face the electorate at the upcoming General and Regional Elections. Except for the two dinosaurs and a couple of others, you seem by your ommission, to have dismissed the other parties from sharing the political space, and being part of a possible National Unity Government that you are so eloquently promoting.

For the records since last year the AFC has been engaged in meaningful dialogue with most of those opposition political parties that you identified in your letter of Jan. 25, 2006 (SN). Unfortunately the WPA though invited did not display any measure of good faith and/or commitment, and opted not to be part of these engagements giving the seat issue as the basis for non-engagement.

The AFC leadership did not set any terms or preconditions for current engagements with other parties. Fortunately for the process, every representative who participated, rejected outright the terms and conditions for participating, which had been proposed by the WPA - What Irony!

The critical issue is not the political posturing of the WPA and you, as their mouthpiece, on a Government of National Unity, which you have so justifiably presented as the only hope for Guyana. It is that unity of oneness and committment to Guyana’s ethnic security, social and economic advancement, which the Guyanese electorate and those in the Diaspora are expecting from all parties occupying the political space in Guyana.

Incidentally, it is well known that the AFC has never shied away from a discussion on the issue of a Government of National Unity and has repeatedly stated its commitment to work towards the establishment of the framework of such a government.

The AFC has listened, and Guyanese at home and abroad are of one voice which is that - It is Time for Change! Most agree that the two monoliths have had their chance and both failed miserably. That is why the space was created for you and the WPA starting almost three decades ago and now for the AFC and a few others.

The last thing anyone wishes to see at this crucial time is a crab-in-a-barrel mentality.

This is not the vision of the AFC and its Agenda For Change.

The AFC avails itself to continue meaningful dialogue with the other political parties and looks forward to the WPA participating even at this stage, it is never too late.

Youre faithfully,
Steering Committee
Alliance For Change