The upholder is worse than the thief: Donald Ramotar, Kwame McCoy and political dysfunction in Guyana
POLITICAL scientists and philosophers have, over time, developed theories about politics which they have used to explain political developments. Of course, because political behaviour is part of human behaviour, it is extremely risky to predict such action. But having observed political action over long periods in different parts of the world, one can, with some degree of accuracy, draw broad conclusions about politics. The assumption is that political actors are rational; they are driven by logic.
For the most part, political scientists and thinkers are able to use these broad conclusions to explain the politics of most countries; but, ever so often, they encounter situations which cannot be explained by those settled conclusions, because they defy political logic.
Guyana is one such country. From the 1950s to the present, this country has, with some exceptions, defied political logic. Some political thinkers have described such countries, in part, as Failed States — they are there, but they do not function like normal polities.
I would not describe Guyana as a Failed State, but it’s hard not to conclude that our politics are definitely dysfunctional. You listen to our politicians and some of their followers and you sometimes wonder if they are real people; and this is after factoring in the obvious about politicians — that they generally deal in the art of deception, or what we discretely call tactic and strategies. Political reason is often absent from the public discourse, even among those who broadly agree on most issues.
In such circumstances, what passes for political culture is a peculiar brand of ‘jungle politics’, which eventually facilitates a jungle mentality in the society at large. Just look at the volume of violence in Guyana, and the mindlessness of those acts, and you can’t help but wonder what on earth has gone wrong in our country. Guyana has lost its innocence; it seems as if there is no longer even the pretense that we want to continue to be a civilised society.
Take the opposition PPP, for example: After being silent for a little while, the party has been very vocal this past week. It had something to say about censorship at the State Media, in particular at the Chronicle, where it took censorship to a new level during its regime. It has signalled that it would question how sums of money are being spent for the Jubilee Celebrations even though audits are showing that the worst form of financial corruption in the history of government in the Anglophone Caribbean occurred during that party’s tenure in government.
Former President Donald Ramotar has been most vocal. He questioned the actions of the Ministry of Education in relation to the National Grade Six examination, and repeated his charge that by seeking to root out corrupt officials from the formal system, the new government is practising racism.
Not to be outdone, after he appeared in court to answer charges for assault on Mark Benschop, committed five years ago, the infamous Kwame McCoy penned a long letter to the press in which he claimed harassment by the Government.
The fact that Kwame McKoy could gather the temerity to pen such a letter is a clear example of how depraved a society we have become. This is a man who has hurt so many people when he had the power to do so, and did worse when those who sat at the top of our government gave him free rein to run amok. I would be writing something different If Kwame had said something like the following: “I know I did wrong, but I do not deserve to be treated like this —two wrongs don’t make a right.” I would have still thought he was crazy, since facing the law for unlawfully hurting people cannot by any stretch of the imagination be equated with harassment. But I would have recognised his contrition, which is an important element of humanity. But there was not even a hint of contrition. On the contrary, Kwame’s letter assumes that he did nothing wrong, that Guyanese were not around before May 15, 2015, or that we are all fools. And worse, inherent in that absence of contrition and in the complete silence about his actions, one may conclude that he would repeat them if the opportunity presents itself again.
At a certain level, I feel sorry for the Kwames of this world —young people who allow themselves to be used as tools and agents of political hurt for a penny and the false sense of importance. It reminds me of Bob Marley’s eloquent declarative wisdom: “In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty.”
I feel strongly that the enslaved Africans and the bonded Indians did not overcome those conditions so that their descendants could become modern slave catchers and headhunters.
I will defend Kwame against political harassment, but I will insist that he must face the law for his alleged acts, so that our young men would see that what Kwame did is not acceptable behaviour.
When I read about men who could instinctively set fire to a house in which elderly people are trapped, or lure a young woman, the mother of their child, into the night and murder her, I can’t help but wonder about the linkage between those acts and the diabolical acts carried out by men armed with the cover of the state and government in the name of political survival.
It is for that reason that I take serious issue with former president Donald Ramotar, who described the decision to have Kwame face the court as a racist act. I know Mr Ramotar knows the definition of racism; I also know that Mr Ramotar is a learned man; but the fact that he could say something like that points to the dysfunction of our politics, to which I referred earlier.
Mr Ramotar is playing the role of the upholder; he is defending the worst acts under his regime. The crooked logic that led the PPP to enlist the services of enforcers is the very same logic that leads Mr Ramotar to spin Kwame’s prosecution as racism.
What Mr Ramotar did not know is that he lets the proverbial cat out of the bag when he charges that the worst of the so-called harassment of PPP people by the Government is saved for the party’s African-Guyanese activists.
Those of us who monitored the PPP’s actions within the African-Guyanese community during that party’s tenure in government are all too familiar with the strategy of recruiting African-Guyanese enforcers who were tasked with keeping the community in line.
They did the same in the Indian-Guyanese and Amerindian communities. Gone were the days when the party enforcers were people from outside the communities.
The strategy worked at one level, as it ensured that the party and Government escape direct charges of racial discrimination and force. But if you go into those communities, the people will tell you how they lived in fear of the enforcers, and how they were terrorised and bullied into taking bribes.
So Mr Ramotar should not be surprised that when the law moves to seek justice for those who were hurt, the accused would be mostly African Guyanese; they were the ones contracted as bullies, enforcers and mercenaries. On another day I will deal with the degeneration among African-Guyanese that makes them such easy targets for recruitment. Instead of defending what Kwame McKoy represented under his party’s watch, Mr Ramotar would do the country a better favour if he were to stop thinking that we are all so foolish that in one year we have forgotten the atrocities suffered under his PPP. As they say: “The upholder is worse than the thief.” President Ramotar should stop being an upholder.
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 www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org