MY TURN | THE WAY FORWARD
July 12, 2020 – From my exposure to elementary Latin in high school, I remember the fable from Greek mythology about Minotaur. That was a fictional monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man, locked away in what was called The Labyrinth.
In Guyana, elections hitherto were primarily a potent power for social change and transformation. The right to universal adult suffrage – one man/woman, one vote – was won in struggles since 1953.
Over time, however, desperate but powerful interests have tried to place elections into a political labyrinth and to bury their true purpose in a maze of dirty money and corrupt influences.
CYCLE OF LITIGATION
That has been the fate of the 2020 elections for which final results are yet to be declared due to a concatenation of chicanery, styled electoral fraud, that may yet attract another cycle of litigation.
The leader of the cluster of miniscule parties that may get one seat in the National Assembly from what are commonly deemed “left-over votes”, has already pompously confronted the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) with this possibility. “We coming back right hey!” he bawled in the face of the Court.
The Elections Commission, the only body that is entitled by law to declare the results, has already been dragged before several courts at various stages of the electoral process. The CCJ, Guyana’s apex court, has in turn returned the matter of making the final declaration to the Commission.
The Elections Commission has received a Report on the outcome of these elections, and is expected tomorrow (July 13) to chart what has been described in a section of the local media as “the way forward”. That Report, it is common knowledge, gives the incumbent APNU+AFC Coalition a razor-thin, one-seat win.
“The Way Forward” may sound like a worn-out cliché but it is intended as a road-map that seldomly works well or smoothly, but it is always useful if only to momentarily steer antagonists away from the dangerous precipice.
It has always been feared that in Guyana inter-ethnic and civil conflict, the cauldron for which has been for decades on slow fire, would be that point of no return.
I had feared that that could happen after the 1997 elections. In a previous article, I referred to those elections when “the dark and ominous shadows of open and bloody ethnic conflict had loomed over Guyana”.
It may be useful to share how I had seen the situation then when I was asked to give guidance on “the way forward”. I advocated a power-sharing political solution under which, except the presidency, “everything else should be on the table for dialogue and negotiation between the government and the opposition”.
More recently many well-meaning persons have contacted me to re-state my position which, post 1997, was consumed in the flames of opportunism and unprecedented hubris.
They have also been suggesting inter alia that:-
(a) the President and the Leader of the Opposition should urgently engage on the way forward;
(b) a multi-stakeholders National Commission be established to prepare for transition to a multi-party/multi-ethnic interim national government based on 50/50 parity in Cabinet;
(c) the Constitution ought to be amended to depoliticize and broaden the Elections Commission;
(d) laws must be made to regulate campaign financing and foreign interference in the electoral process;
(e) personal data of all Guyanese nationals should be protected from unauthorised access and manipulation for electoral purposes;
(f) there should be a thorough revision of the voters list to weed out the names of deceased persons, and those who are living permanently in foreign countries; and
(g) fresh elections to be held under the aegis of the United Nations within three years.
These are by no means novel or new ideas but I share them today with a view to stimulating a national dialogue on the way forward so that we could avoid the pitfalls that would attend zero-sum, winner-takes-all elections.
For too long Guyanese have been trapped in these ethnic silos in which we have found it difficult to breathe and to grow. We have to step out and away from our collective self-entrapment, and literally escape from the political labyrinth. Together we must face our many challenges and enjoy our new opportunities as an enviable rich petroleum state.
Our immediate challenge is not who rules us at home, but those who fool us from abroad. Our biggest threat is not the next-door neighbour whose ethnicity is different from ours, but the invisible Covid-19 enemy that has already invaded our villages, targeted our homes, and has put our families in danger. Our enemy is the conquistador sitting at our border, to borrow the words of Martin Carter, watching us sleep and aiming at our dreams.
The only way forward is the road to unity. National unity is not only a form. It is content of what we can do to protect our people and to safeguard their interests.
Tomorrow goes beyond elections. If we decide wrongly, it could take us back to the past; if we decide wisely and courageously it will propel us into a bright, bountiful and beautiful future.