WE have reached a point in our dear land of Guyana where the responsible practice of politics from the sitting administration and opposition is mandatory to ensure sound and safe leadership. This clarion call is a basic tenet in any democracy and Guyanese citizens demand and expect no less. Few will disagree with such a declaration, reinforced by the thought that Guyanese have been paying attention to their leaders, irrespective of political affiliation, as demonstrated in the recently concluded Budget debate.
The signpost is up indicating that they are not shy or chambered. They are expressing their views openly, emboldened perhaps by their steadfast determination to restore democracy during the failed attempts to rig the March 2, 2020, general elections. They have gravitated to philosopher Plato’s maxim in that if you refuse to participate in politics you might end up being governed by inferiors. I would add govern by buffoons.
There is something else that has encouraged Guyanese to speak out. They have seen how the post-independent political opus of over fifty years has produced what I call the politics of equal time. The two main political parties have been on both sides of the political aisle, roughly twenty-five years in leadership and twenty-five years in the opposition. One would think that this rather unique situation would lead to some level of satisfaction in that each political party has had its turn to govern, despite illegal access to power.
One would think further that there would be a shared understanding on the mutuality of challenges to move Guyana forward, lifting us from the abyss of despair to that of One Guyana. Unfortunately, the reverse has happened where we have hydra-headed political mandarins who are hell-bent on promoting shopworn diatribes and political dissonance. The grundnorm of Guyana’s constitution has become a decorative decorum.
I am referring to the recently concluded Budget debate as a show of shame, sprinkled with moments of progress. The sitting administration is not free from the brusque and hectoring manner of speaking in the National Assembly and ought to work out better ways to disentangle itself from the bluster of braggadocio. The Opposition’s participation in the Budget debate was more of a bulwark against why it was booted out of office rather than providing constructive criticisms of the budget.
This tactic is an extension of the narrative that the general election is stolen from them, a bitter pill that has been stuck mid-way down the throats of the citizenry. I suspect that the narrative of a stolen election would be a grandiose scheme until the next election. For now, it is a wasted opportunity that pushes the Opposition further into political wilderness.
That said, if one examines the role of the Opposition in post-independence Guyana, there is a co-relation. When the PNC is in power tensions are lesser but when the PNC is out of power tensions are higher. When the PPP is in power tensions are higher and when the PPP is out of power tensions are lower. For example, tensions were high in Guyana from 2002 to 2011 (PPP) after the prison outbreak, and from 2015 up to March 2, 2020, general elections (PNC) tensions were lesser, at least regarding mayhem and murders. It is fitting to say that the PNC never wants to be in the opposition, no party does, but the time spent in office is seasonal until the people march to the polls.
The people’s freedom of expression must be accepted. This is a problem area for the PNC: how to be a responsible opposition party. I overheard once that under the Coalition Government crime was low, and that may be the case. What is missing, however, in that discussion is the role of a responsible opposition. Try to juxtapose this with when the PNC has been in the opposition.
The reason for political rigmarole and retrograde is that to be in the opposition is tantamount to a spectacle of shame, the most hated political space in Guyana. No politician wants to be there. I concur. Yet, the opposition is the most sacred space since it is here when political parties redound to return to office, and not act like wounded cats, ventilating unsubstantiated claims.
It is while in the opposition that political parties ironically have more time to assess their mistakes, to meet with their supporting base, to reach out to communities across the political divide, and to court international support, and in the process, level with the people in each chain of connection. Tell them what went wrong by sharing some introspective challenges you had, and how you intend to learn and overcome them instead of peddling a stolen election narrative. “Let us not fix the blame for the past.
Let us accept our own responsibility for the future” so nicely put by President John Kennedy. If this crucial lesson is not learned and executed, then nothing can be built from nothing. This might not be a perfect political prophylactic, but it will restore some confidence. May I ask, who is advising the opposition? Oh no, the gravy train is grounded, my bad (firstname.lastname@example.org).