In Going for the Whole Hog in Guyana, We May End Up Losing

By Dr. David Hinds

News Americas, GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tues. Jan. 27, 2015: Since my last column, there have been some very energetic discussions, particularly on Social Media about the composition of the much touted all-opposition pre-election coalition, especially the AFC-Nagamootoo-led ticket. Nuff respect to the debaters. Those who thought I was being “racist” by bringing the race component into the open are now hearing from many African Guyanese -” But an African is not good enough to be President?”

The answer to them is that the objective is to get rid of the PPP and all other considerations must take backseat–what I call an overdose of Expediency. Some, APNU supporters  have even argued that in any case, David Granger’s track record over the last three years does not qualify him to be the top man so why not go with Moses—a tacit admission that there is no African to fit the bill.

What is clear is that many are swayed in the direction of a coalition. The sticking point is who is going to be the leader.  This is not an easy question; it has never and will never be an easy one in ethnically divided societies like ours. Suspension of Ethnic Disbelief is not as easy as some think or are making it out to be. Some of us would remember that in 1992 there were objections to Dr. Jagan as a consensus candidate. The then PPP, of which some in the AFC’s leadership were members, quickly shot that down. Their spoken and unspoken argument was that we were taking the PPP and its ethnic constituency for granted. Whether one agreed with them or not, one had to appreciate the reality that drove that stance.

The “Vote for Moses because it is the best way to get rid of the evil PPP and we would sort out other things afterwards” is grounded in expediency. Many are choosing to forget that it was the same mantra “Vote for the PPP and Jagan to get rid of the evil PNC” that landed us the PPP monster we are now trying to rid ourselves of. The irony is that we are using the very same narrative today in the quest to get rid of the PPP. We have either not grown or learned or both. What is needed is an argument as to how  an AFC/APNU Cooperation (Note I say Cooperation and not Coalition) would bring relief to them as women, as youth, as elderly people, as unemployed people, as workers, as Africans, as Indians, as Portuguese, as Amerindians, as Chinese, as Guyanese, as poor people.

The key is to find the best formulae that excites all of our ethnic and social groups to see their interests as mutually tied up and more importantly that allay the insecurities and fears of all groups, not just one. A Nagamootoo-led ticket would potentially allay the fears of East Indians and not Africans. A Granger-led ticket would potentially allay the fears of Africans and not East Indians. To argue for one over the other is to ignore the fears and ambitions of the other. This is the big challenge for those who are advancing this All-party Front. And expediency is not the answer. As seductive as this proposal is, we may have to face the harsh reality that it may be a non-starter and we may have to search for other forms of cooperation.

I was a strong supporter of the AFC joining the APNU in 2011—in effect the same thing we are attempting now. The AFC stayed out. That decision proved to be correct—the AFC split the Indian vote in a way I think would not have been possible had the AFC been part of the APNU. Now the AFC feels it can make further inroads in the Indian constituency as head of the All-Party Front. It’s a big risk. The question Indians who are swayed away from the PPP would be asking is this—Are you sure you can prevent the PNC from being the real power behind the throne or from finding a way to depose you? Moses and the AFC would have to assure them that they can keep the PNC under control. And if you are a PNC supporter you are bound to take note of that. The question Africans who are swayed in the direction of an AFC led coalition would ask is this: How do we know this coalition if it wins would not turn into another Indian government. After all the president when elected has a lot of power to act independent of partners. It would be interesting to hear what answer African leaders would give to that question.

This is risky politics. In going for the whole hog, we may end up losing the whole hog. We may convince one group but lose the other group or we may not convince enough voters of either group. Then we are back to a PPP majority. I still believe in a strategy that first secures the joint AFC/APNU parliamentary majority that we have now but with increased representation that would then be used as leverage to get the Joint Government you are aiming for. I think that is less of a risky strategy. First make sure you don’t lose the majority you have and if in the process one of the parties win the plurality, all the merrier.

And the way you do that is to run separately but with a coordinated message. In effect you are going to the two ethnic communities and ask them to vote for a National Government without forcing them to come out of their ethnic comfort zone. I still believe a message of an end to PPP One- Party Rule is a more effective mobilizing message in the Indian community. The PPP must go, but it’s going must be the basis for something fresh, forward thinking and in the interest of all of the people in Guyana, including those who see the PPP as their legitimate representatives.

Dr. David Hinds, a political activist and commentator, is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Caribbean and African Diaspora Studies at Arizona State University. More of his 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