A Historic Moment
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OCTOBER 5, 1992 marks 30 years since the restoration of democracy to Guyana after some 28 years of PNC authoritarian rule. It will be recalled that the PNC/UF coalition government came to power in 1964 in what former British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson described as a ‘fiddled constitutional arrangement’, one unprecedented in the history of Commonwealth politics.

The history behind the removal of the PPP from power and the installation of the PNC-UF coalition in the 1964 elections is somewhat complicated but it had to do essentially with a plot by western vested interests, in collaboration with local reactionary forces to prevent the PPP administration from taking Guyana into political independence out of a mistaken perception, as documented by the then Presidential Advisor to President Kennedy in his book ‘A thousand Days in the White House’ “that an independent Guyana under Forbes Burnham would cause us fewer problems than an independent Guyana under Cheddi Jagan.”

The stage was then set for the manipulation of the electoral process and a change from the constituency system to one of proportional representation which allowed for contesting parties to combine their votes to form the government should they garner enough votes to gain a majority.

All of that, in the context of our new and evolving political culture, may appear normal since in some ways it could be seen as consistent with the Westminster system of majoritarian rule. But that was far from being the case as the PNC, a mere three years later, unceremoniously kicked out its junior partner from the coalition government and commenced a process of electoral fraud with the aim of institutionalising PNC minority rule. The PNC managed to perpetuate its life in government for nearly three decades through a combination of force and fraud.

One consequence of that rupture of the democratic fabric of the society was that it set in motion a process of underdevelopment and economic retrogression which culminated in the ‘pauperisation’ of the working people and a disgraceful state of affairs in which Guyana was regarded internationally as a ‘pariah’ state. Guyana, by the end of the 1980s, was ranked among the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

The restoration of democratic rule in the early 1990s did not come about without a long and protracted struggle led by the PPP and supported by democratic forces both within and outside of Guyana. Elections which were due in 1990 were postponed by two years to allow for electoral reforms, chief among which was the counting of votes at the place of poll. Desmond Hoyte, then President, fiercely resisted this move describing it as a ‘logistical nightmare’. It took, as it were, much arm-twisting on the part of President Carter before Hoyte finally but reluctantly agreed to count the votes at the place of poll, which among other electoral reforms allowed for the holding of the first democratic elections in close to three decades.

To say that the country has made significant strides since the restoration of democracy in 1992 would be an understatement. Guyana is today an important player on the regional and international stage and the Guyana economy is today ranked among the fastest growing in the world thanks to our newly found oil and gas riches. The stigma of Guyana as a pariah state has now gone and we are now firmly on the road to economic prosperity and social progress.

This is not to suggest that our democracy should be taken for granted. In fact, our democracy still remains fragile as was manifested in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections when attempts were made by the APNU+AFC coalition in collaboration with rogue elements of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to subvert the will of the Guyanese electorate.

Our democracy must be consolidated and strengthened at any cost. There can be no development and human progress without democracy. Society is diminished by the absence of democracy and democratic institutions and norms.  As noted by President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, “we believe strongly that democratic values are values that should never be sacrificed, are values that are part of human dignity and human rights; and our commitment to Guyana is to ensure that never again should the people of this country have to experience such moments when the democracy of the country was tested. So, I want to say to all of you that be assured that Guyana and this government’s commitment to democracy is unwavering.”

These are indeed profoundly reassuring words by President Ali whose vision of a democratic, prosperous and harmonious society along the lines of his ‘One Guyana’ vision continues to inspire Guyanese from all walks of life and across the political, religious and ethnic spectrum. Indeed, President Ali and his PPP/C administration must be commended for putting country before party as the search for greater inclusivity and participatory democracy continues.


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