OUR CARIBBEAN: Politics of ‘ethic arithmetic’
PRIME MINISTER Freundel Stuart may perhaps take pride in keeping close to his chest any creative political initiative he plans to unfold for the second half century of Barbados as an independent nation, come this November 30.
In contrast, President David Granger of Guyana seems quite disposed to signal his coalition government’s new preference for broad-based constructive governance that could authentically reflect the country’s demographic structure to foster national unity and inspire socio/economic progress.
Such a development has for far too long been ignored by Mr Granger’s own People’s National Congress under previous government leaders. But it remains a most desirable development and deserves serious, sustained political consideration between the governing and major opposition People’s Progressive (Party/Civic in preparation for the country’s second half century of political independence that begins a week from today.
While having much in common, politically and culturally, the political tango of the Errol Barrow/Forbes Burnham era had influenced their moving for political independence within months of each other back in 1966 – Guyana on May 26; Barbados on November 30.
Nevertheless, sharply contrasting governance models and leadership styles were to develop. In Guyana, under Burnham the country moved to republican status followed by governance based on systemic electoral fraud and political repression – that included political assassinations with the best known victim being Dr Walter Rodney.
It was, therefore, politically refreshing to follow last week’s call in the Guyana parliament by President Granger, leader of the main coalition party, PNC, and a retired brigadier of the Guyana Defence Force.
Also known for his professional attachment to history and media communication – President Granger ventured last week with a surprising initiative in the National Assembly last week with a call for “an end to “ethnic arithmetic “in the nation’s party politics, warning that Guyana’s future “depends heavily on social cohesion”.
The cynics, familiar with Guyana’s politics of ethnic divisions and political opportunism, may cynically shrug. That would be a pity. The opportunity should, rather, be taken by Guyana’s parliamentary opposition for a constructive engagement with President Granger.
First, however, and quite appropriately, there seems to be need for President Granger to extend an official invitation to the Opposition Leader and former President Bharat Jagdeo, for structured consultation on the way forward for good governance and national unity.
After all, Guyana’s history of political/racial conflicts cannot be simply wished away or coated with sweet, stirring rhetoric. Indeed, as a professional politician versed in governance, President Granger should become busy in following up with constructive initiatives, his own expressed interest in ending the political curse of “ethnic arithmetic” in Guyana in which his PNC and the PPP have been involved.
Mr Granger well knows that he cannot seriously expect either the Speaker of the Assembly or the Opposition Leader of the PPP to simply move to address on their own his challenge to end “the ethnic arithmetic” that is so harmful to Guyana’s unity and progress.
Indeed, should he fail to take the minimum of action by extending a formal invitation – preferably in a letter – to the parliamentary opposition, addressed to Mr Jagdeo, and copied to the Speaker of Parliament, President Granger’s welcome initiative to end the suffocating “ethnic arithmetic” in Guyana’s party politics would simply be a massive waste of precious time.
After all, it is not for the Speaker to remind Mr Granger on his logical move for constructive engagement with the parliamentary opposition to arrest the negative consequences of “ethnic arithmetic” in Guyana’s political culture.