I HAD intended to write a column on my New Year’s wishes for Guyana, but I had to change gear when the story erupted over the Red House. Not for the first time this year, I am forced to hang my head in shame over what passes for politics in Guyana. Our political leaders, on both sides, have little or no respect for the Guyanese people. Can somebody tell me what on earth could have driven political leaders to be standing in front of Red House fighting over possession of that building? I think we have really lost it. I drive the streets and roads of this country and witness the gross indiscipline of motorists, which ultimately results in horrendous accidents that claim the lives of innocent, defenceless citizens. I open the newspapers every day and read stories of robberies that seem to be taking place in a jungle. I see the large number of beggars on the streets, including children, jostling with vehicles for the attention of drivers and pedestrians. I read of the gruesome murders of mainly women trapped in abusive relationships and marriages and the failure of the law and the society at large to rescue them. I listen to the cries of many poor people for justice and economic relief and sense of helplessness and frustration that there is nowhere to turn to.
But instead of paying attention to these ills, our politicians are in front of Red House carrying on. I am not saying that the Red House issue is unimportant, but I am asking whether it’s worth the energies that are being expended on it. In politics, one must weigh the political pros and cons, especially when one is a national leader. In this regard, I think the PPP is being deliberately nasty and the government side is being hopelessly naïve.
This Red House matter could have been solved a long time ago, but for the PPP’s inherent politics of domination. The President made the most reasonable suggestion that the Red House be used to house the papers of all Guyana’s presidents. Now, how much more reasonable that that can you ask for, bearing in mind that this was a case of state property being appropriated for private party use? The PPP rejected this proposal—a case of being wrong and strong. The PPP is blatantly saying that it has no interest in national reconciliation; its only interest is to get back into the seat of dominance. This is politics at its ugliest. Some of us continue to believe that we can go nowhere as a country without a common sense of purpose. But the PPP makes a liar of us—every day.
Former President Jagdeo, as he often does, let the cat out of the bag when he asserted that the APNU+AFC would pay for their move to evict the PPP from the building; that Indian-Guyanese supporters of the PPP would not look kindly on such an action. Now, let us examine that assertion. To begin with, Indian-Guyanese PPP supporters would not look kindly on any government action—so there is no news there. So, Mr. Jagdeo must be hinting that there is something special about this action. He is, of course, making the Red House story about Jagan the person and in the process appealing to the raw ethnic sensitivities of Indian-Guyanese.
As a student of ethnicity and ethnic politics, I allow for certain normatives in ethnically polarised societies. I am not torn up by ethnic voting, nor am I condemnatory of appeals to ethnic solidarity—I see these as normal developments that are products of the logic of ethnic polarisation. One just has to live with them and try to utilise them in positive ways. But what Mr. Jagdeo is doing is going out of his way to create an atmosphere of ethnic tension when there need not be one.
This Red House issue is not one of disrespecting Jagan or Indian- Guyanese sensitivities. It is a simple case of a party using its authority to appropriate common resources for private, partisan use and the government attempting to restore the resource to common public use. This is purely a matter of recovering stolen state assets. The issue of stole state assets is one that is central to the PPP’s legacy, but because of the present government’s weak-kneed approach to the issue, the PPP has been behaving as if it has been vindicated.
But having said that, the government should not have chosen the Red House as its point of entry; on the scale of things, Red House is low down on the pecking order. Why go after Red House when you have the bigger house in the form of Pradoville? What about all the easy targets unearthed by the audits? The Red House is easy pickings for the PPP; they will make it about Jagan, as they are doing. Eventually the government would take control of Red House, but the PPP would have made its political point that a government of Guyana threw out Jagan from Red House. This is political ABC– if you are going after political corruption, go where the perpetrators are most vulnerable. Where are the political brains in the government or are available to them?
I would rather see a government minister holding a vigil outside the Georgetown Hospital where pregnant mothers and others go to die—this is no longer a partisan matter, it is one of national emergency. I would rather see a vigil at Pradoville, which is the real monument of stolen assets. Maybe, the Madam Minister and her team should hold a vigil in front of the Attorney General’s Office urging the speeding up of passage of the SARA legislation, which would open the way for proper, lawful prosecution of those who are accused of misappropiating state assets. The APNU+AFC could, should and must do better than this!
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