Dialogue with the Deaf

By Hydar Ally

There has been a fair measure of anxiety by a significant body of public opinion regarding the future direction of this beautiful country of ours.
This mood of anxiety and trepidation has been enhanced by some recent developments, which do not seem to bode well for the consolidation of our democratic and consultative institutions.

The rejection of the list of nominees for the post of GECOM Chairman by President Granger and the attempted ejection of the Red House administration within a mere forty eight hours notice have been interpreted as a shift away from dialogue and reason to one of high handedness and a unilateralist approach in dealing with matters of grave national interest.

What is needed in the country at this moment in our history is a culture of reason and dialogue, which must have as its overarching objective the overall good of the nation and the preservation of its democratic institutions.
No good can emanate when those who have access to the levers of power utilize that power in a reckless and unbiased manner.

Such an approach is tantamount to a dialogue, with the deaf in which the views of one party does not matter in the overall scheme of things.

I believe that this country can only move forward if there is a sincere effort on the part of those who control the levers of power at the national level to put the interest of the society as a whole above narrow, partisan interests.
Regrettably, this has proven elusive over the decades despite the best efforts of the PPP to create a climate of peace and national reconciliation. The PPP has always had as its principal objective the attainment of national, racial and working class unity. Such unity was attained when the PPP, with the support of the most powerful unions, won 18 out of 24 seats in the elections of April 1953.

This victory demolished the myth of a racially divided society and destroyed the racialist/conservative political influences of both the League of Colored People and the British Guiana East Indian Association.

Intervention by British troops in October 1953, and divide and rule methods unfortunately resulted in a split in our national liberation struggle. Ever since, the PPP consistently sought to attain national unity, but all attempts failed because of imperialist machinations and PNC opportunism.

Again during the 1975-1976 period, when the PNC regime took some positive postures on the issue of nationalization, the PPP sought to give ‘critical support’ to the PNC regime, but the talks collapsed because Burnham wanted to maintain state/bureaucratic capitalism masquerading as  ‘socialism’.

Again, during the 1978-1981 period when the country was bleeding from IMF-imposed anti-working class prescriptions and policies, the PPP agreed to resume talks with the PNC regime with a view to come up with an agreed programme of development, but the talks collapsed after the sudden passing of Burnham in August 1985.  His successor, Desmond Hoyte, ended the talks and proceeded with national and regional elections, which were massively rigged.

The PPP, in alliance with four other parties formed the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy immediately after the rigged elections. An agreement was reached to form a united electoral front in keeping with an understanding to form a future government of national unity.

Again, a major difficulty arose over the presidential candidate. Some of the coalition partners opposed the candidacy of Dr. Jagan on the grounds of race/ethnicity, ideology, age among other unrealistic proposals.

A final proposal was hammered out with the support of the business community, which would have seen Dr. Jagan as the Presidential Candidate, Dr. Clive Thomas as Prime Minister and Paul Tennassee of the DLM, but disagreement among some members of the coalition over the choice of Mr. Paul Tennassee as a Deputy Prime Ministerial candidate eventual led to the collapse of the PCD.

It was after all attempts by the PPP to arrive at a reasonable compromise failed that the PPP finally resorted to a Civic alliance with Dr. Jagan as the Presidential candidate and Mr. Samuel Hinds as the Prime Ministerial Candidate.

The PPP/C went on to win the historic October 1992 elections.

I thought of resorting to the above excursion in our political history if only to make the point that political dialogue is never easy. It is likened to a case of pulling out teeth but in the final analysis it is the only way out of our current political morass.

The President cannot escape his constitutional responsibility to engage the Opposition Leader on fundamental issues of governance. Such responsibility cannot be ‘delegated’ to subordinates, especially when it comes to the vital issue of the nomination of a Chairman of the Elections Commission.