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The Freddie Kissoon column


I was not in Guyana when Walter Rodney was assassinated, but friends told me it was the darkest moment in their lives. Guyana has seen so many political tragedies that for a large number of Guyanese, whether in or out of the country, they have had their traumatic experiences when living in Guyana look like the end of the world. We all have travelled that route. As Burnham got more and more erratic, there seemed no hope for Guyana . There was just nothing to give your future a meaning. In those days, Guyana looked like it had no future and even your own existence felt threatened.

In no other time in Guyana , as we are now, is that feeling more pronounced. If at any time in this country people are living in the fear that something terrible is going to happen that may destroy Guyana , then it is here and now. The ubiquity of this thought is frightening. Everywhere you go, whoever you meet, there is one depressing topic: “ Guyana looks like it will disintegrate into violent conflict.”

In the Labour Day march that was all I heard from those I met in the procession. As soon as someone pulled you over to chat about politics, that topic came up: “We are heading for violent trouble.”

This trepidation cuts across all classes, all races, all types of Guyanese that I have met since the Agricola massacre. It has grown in intensity since the Sawh assassination. This topic has been raised with me by members of all the political parties in the opposition.

Businessmen have expressed this ongoing pessimistic perception to me. All and sundry are depressed in Guyana . All and sundry fear a dreadful climax. I am asked the inevitable question: “Why is the PPP so uncompromising?” Truly, I don't have the answer to this question. We social scientists who study the society and its political economy and its sociology are expected to provide insights into how the people with power think and why they do the things they do. What follows below are some tentative conclusions.

Since Jimmy Carter came here two years ago and emphasised the need for inclusive governance, it would seem that the PPP felt that it was a backdoor move to deny the historical right of the PPP to be in government.

It would appear that the role of Jimmy Carter in the 1992 election was dismissed as part of a broad international movement that started in the eighties and climaxed in the nineties. The PPP then didn't feel that it had a special obligation to Carter.

Since Carter left, only one side appears to have shifted gear, and that is the PNC. Carter advised that it re-enter Parliament and pursue its parliamentary role. The PNC has done that. But that was all Carter got. He has since lost interest in Guyana . From that time up to this moment, there has been no significant, remarkable or encouraging move by the ruling PPP to approach or even listen to other major stakeholders in the society.

The great floods of 2005 marked a further deplorable decline in the political culture of the ruling party. This monumental tragedy was used for narrow, political purposes. It was a shocking display of Third World political barbarism.

From that time onwards, it would seem that something snapped inside the leadership of the PPP. The period of mourning for ‘Sash' Sawh was still being observed when that tragedy was again used for partisan political gains. From the great floods of 2005 onwards, right up to the present time, the ruling PPP has become more hardened in its disinclination to engage the Guyanese society at a time when dialogue and compromise are the only options left to save this land. But there is also a diabolical side to this disinclination.

It is not that the PPP has gone into its shell, and refuses to accommodate the Guyanese society. On the contrary, the PPP plans and executes policies that are intended to deepen and exacerbate the conflicts. In other words, the PPP wants conflagration. This is where the analysts come in. They have to provide answers for this unbelievably shocking retrogression of the PPP. My own assessment leads me into two directions.

One is that after 14 years in power, in which corruption became phenomenally uncontrollable and links were developed with certain types of people who controlled the informal (or phantom) economy, the PPP is afraid of inclusive government or losing power because the aftermath of investigations and commissions may lead to a Basdeo Panday scenario. The decision then is that any arrangement that would force inclusive governance on Guyana should be rejected. This is where Carter failed on his second mission. Also, any purification of electoral arrangement may result in either a shared government or a loss of power. To prevent the Basdeo Panday reality from coming to Guyana, the PPP may have chosen a path of increasing conflict that would prevent a change in government.

The second direction leads me to the path of partition. It seems that inside the PPP leadership is the final acceptance that the PPP will not be removed by power either by the PNC, the Americans or other parties associated or working alongside them.

The PPP may have taken the amazingly short-sighted decision that it would be in the interest of the survival of the PPP if Guyana implodes and explodes since, given the unique demography of Guyana, the country is bound to split in two. The reasoning is that once the violence starts it will be confined to Georgetown where the seat of power is. If Georgetown is removed from the authority of the PPP Government, then Berbice and Essequibo will not accept to be ruled by those who have undermined the PPP Government.

This is a calculated gamble of immensely frightening dimensions. An internecine conflict may not leave these two counties untouched. Also, Suriname and Venezuela may use the opportunity to take Guyanese territories. These then are the two decisions I believe the analyst has to work with if he/she is going to explain the almost insane recalcitrance of the PPP in what is widely perceived as Guyana 's greatest moment of crisis in its history. At the time of writing this essay, I have been reliably informed that the talks with Nagamootoo have broken off with the decision taken that Mr. Nagamooto has to rejoin the PPP as an ordinary member and will not be allowed back into the leadership.

The die is cast. Can Guyana be saved? I say it can. We, the people have to start doing what all others like us have done in history.

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