THIS morning I woke up in a state of anxiety about Guyana and the Caribbean. I thought about Grenada where a referendum on constitutional reform has degenerated into a partisan fight. I thought about our cricket, our jewel, and the circus it has become. I thought about my fellow Caribbean scholars and our refusal to use our scholarship to bear witness for the powerless. I thought about America’s unravelling and how its democratic myth is exploding by the minute. And then my mind went back to May 2015 in Guyana.
Eighteen months ago Guyana was a scene of euphoria largely because the country had changed governments for just the second time in 51 years. There was a sense of relief and expectancy. Half of the country celebrated in typical West Indian fashion—they went the extra mile. From the inaugurations to the victory parties and doses of triumphalism, Guyana breathed new air– or so it seemed. Yes, it was half of the country doing its thing, but that is the reality of our Caribbean. We have, as a region, wrapped our destiny in the winner-loser framework. In the process, the winner acts as if it is the country—the loser is rendered insignificant and invisible. It is one of the tragedies of our post- plantation, post-independence existence.
And so it was in May 2015. The losers of 23 long years of wilful, vengeful, authoritarian governance had become the winners. Their “carnival of misery” was transformed into a carnival of relief and hope. The so-called winners of the preceding two decades suddenly had to come to grips with being losers again. Our Guyana, our Caribbean in their most naked selves—the loser gives way to the winners and the winners become the country.
For me, May 15 was a moment of mixed emotions. I come out of the critical-radical tradition of the Caribbean which has long been suspicious of elections and their outcomes as agents of transformation. But given the decline of revolution in our Caribbean, we radicals have had to embrace elections as vehicles for change more than we did before. In the process we, in the eyes of the reformers, had become normative. The Caribbean Radical Left surrendered their ideological identity and became mainstream, often with the “national interest” as the justification.
Here in Guyana, the remnants of the formal and informal WPA joined their nemesis in a partnership—the APNU. They didn’t get there without weeping and gnashing of teeth, but their nationalist streak soothed the pain. The APNU was formed and the rest is history. The WPA became part of the new dispensation and we all went for the ride.
So, there we were in May 2015 cheering the defeat of the PPP, but some of us were not too sure we should be cheering the rise to power of the new coalition. My own study of our history in Guyana and the wider Caribbean had alerted me to the fact that no post-independence government, including the PRG in Revolutionary Grenada, had managed to balance socio-political transformation and democratic governance. So why would this one be any different?
I have wrestled with that question since May 15. You see, I talked myself into believing that my type– the non-conformist, radical, nationalist—had a stake and a role in the new government—do we? I talked myself into believing that the political praxis of the old PNC was a thing of the dark past; that the WPA—our WPA — would never sit down and shut up in exchange for a seat at the table; that the unknown quantity—the AFC—would find an ideological soul. So I have gone along for the ride, still believing that this is Guyana’s time to show our Caribbean how to craft a governance praxis to correct plantation wrongs.
Eighteen months later, I watch the government of 2015 hope govern as if it is not aware of its historic task. I don’t judge governments by scandals, so that’s not part of my angst. If this coalition government fails to inspire some minimum transformation in Guyana, the idea and practice of coalition will decline in the Caribbean and the winner-loser praxis would continue to hold sway. The human beings who took to the streets in May/June 2015 and put their love on this government have returned to their customary state of victimhood. As for me, I continue to despair. I borrow from David Rudder’s classic calypso, “1990”–Will somebody, please make a liar of me.
More of Dr. Hinds ‘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. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org