AUGUST 2 marks the first year since the PPP/C returned to power for a second time. To recall, the PPP/C led Guyana from 1992 to 2015, but was “unseated” from power by the APNU+AFC coalition from 2015 to 2020. The question that comes to mind is: What makes the past year (August 2, 2020 to August 2, 2021) so significant, as opposed to other years, given that the PPP/C has been at the centre of Guyanese politics for over six decades? Put differently, what makes the past year so special? I think it will be instructive if we examine 1993 and 2016, before 2021. The former are years following the change of power in Guyana in 1992 and 2015. This approach will allow us to make comparative analyses to demonstrate why 2021 is so significant, rather than just analyse PPP/C’s first year in office in isolation the second time around.
In 1992, the PPP/C, for the first time since independence (1966), was able to lead Guyana via a free and fair election. All prior elections were rigged, denying the PPP/C access to power. Naturally, then, there was much resistance from the PNC to give up power, and when it did, some sections of Guyana and the international community were in shock. After the first year in office in 1993, the PPP/C was governing, but the PNC was controlling a deeply corrupt country, notably, the civil service, including the Police Force and military. The latter was still loyal to the PNC. The challenge for PPP/C was how to transform a corrupt and militarised Guyanese state into a functional civic society. It was reported that Cheddi Jagan’s approach to this challenge was that those who broke down Guyana would be actively involved in rebuilding the country, through inclusive rather than exclusive policies. A few individuals, if any, from the PNC were brought to justice for the abuse of power. In sum, one year after the PPP/C entered office in 1992, it was simply hanging on to power while implementing moderate changes.
In 2016, one year after the APNU+AFC coalition entered office, the situation was markedly different from 1993. The overall political, social, economic, and human rights conditions in Guyana had improved noticeably, but the Coalition misused this improvement. Allow me to pull from an article I wrote in Guyana Times (05.10.2016). The Manifesto “from the current regime [APNU+AFC] is the wickedest propaganda dished out to Guyanese in the history of Guyana. No other government in Guyana and the English-speaking Caribbean has ever lied so blatantly to the people in the first year in power than the current coalition regime.” Additionally, “There is a growing consensus, even to the most distant outsider, that the current regime [APNU+AFC] is incompetent, self-centred, unskilled, and intellectually lazy. Whatever this regime and its supporters are trying to convey, its actions, on scrutiny, reveal that it continues to lie to the Guyanese people.” A few individuals would disagree with this assessment of the APNU+AFC coalition. In sum, the gains that were made during the PPP/C period of leadership were simply rolled back by rudderless and visionless policies from the Coalition.
In 2021, Guyana has shown signs of returning to normal politics of development amid the refusal of some in the opposition that attempts of rigging the general election in 2020 ever happened. So, what is significant about 2021? I identify three patterns. The first is that the PPP/C realised that power should not be taken lightly, and that a closer relationship is warranted with Guyanese. This realisation was put in practice immediately after the APNU+AFC assumed power, and specifically before the local elections and after the No-Confidence Vote in 2018. The ministers have since been on the ground, working hard, so much so that their presence in communities has been more visible than the APNU+AFC coalition. The PPP/C has brought the government to the people rather than the other way around, an impressive departure from the past.
The second pattern is that the PPP/C realised that the PNC has not moved away from the days of electoral rigging before 1992. The PPP/C was under the impression that the PNC is genuinely interested in fair and free general elections, but the failed attempts to rig the 2020 general elections proved otherwise. Much energy has since been applied to clean up the mess in the electorate machinery. This is much-needed effort and energy, but in some ways should not have happened in the 21st Century. Guyana has backpedaled in this regard because one political party does not believe in going to the polls fairly and squarely to achieve power.
The third pattern is that the PPP/C has embarked on a development mode on a macro and micro level. A drive through Guyana will reveal infrastructural developments, construction projects, and the revival of the agricultural sector among others. The PPP/C has taken off, amid challenges, like a plane on an airport runway, while the APNU+AFC Opposition is still on the ground fiddling. In the final analysis, if the PPP/C could maintain these patterns of development while applying pressure on the Opposition to be involved in more constructive criticisms, in the next few years, Guyana will certainly be a better place (firstname.lastname@example.org).