THIS PAST week PPP party leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, announced that his party would bring private corruption charges against government ministers. At one level, one is tempted to dismiss such threats as nonsensical. After all, it is the PPP which is most vulnerable to charges of corruption—there is much evidence both in the public domain and behind the scenes which warrants action against PPP officials. That a couple of these officials are before the courts may well be the tip of the iceberg.
So why is a party that is universally suspected of corruption moving so aggressively to bring similar charges against its opponents who have not to date been fingered in any large-scale corrupt actions? The answer lies in a convergence of the PPP’s historical political barefacedness and the current government’s inadequate political tactics.
The PPP has always seen itself as the natural governors of Guyana—almost a god-given right That sense of itself is deeply rooted in an instinctive view of its opponents as being culturally unfit to govern. For the PPP, the PNC’s 28-years is proof of that belief. Critique of the PNC is not a critique of Caribbean post-colonial governance; it’s a justification of the belief that one group of people are incapable of existing in a state of freedom. That is why they have planted the 28 years of PNC rule as a kind of political theology which they never cease to invoke in diabolical terms.
If you construct half of the population as unfit to govern, it is only logical that you see them as sitting ducks for domination. So from the final split in 1956 to the present there has been a very strong domination tendency in the PPP. Majoritarian democracy became a means to that end. This domination praxis breeds a blind sense of “rightness” on the part of the party that prevents it from recognizing its ills.
There is absolutely no way in which the PPP’s leadership would see and accept that it has engaged in elections rigging in internal elections and in its strongholds at general elections. They would never accept that their rule was tainted with appropriation of state assets for personal gain and with rampant use of the state to quell dissent, including assassinations. They would never accept that racial domination and insensitivity were hallmarks of their governance mode. After all, unlike their opponents, they are the embodiment of virtue.
It is why in the midst of raping the nation, they called on the PNC to apologise and in the face of mounting evidence of corruption under their watch, they could announce that they would bring corruption charges against the Coalition Ministers. They are signalling that they are the guardians of anti-corruption and the governing parties are the embodiment of corruption. Their fear of SARU is grounded in a realization that their narrative of righteousness may be finally exposed for what it is—that they do not have the monopoly on virtue. To the contrary, they may well turn out to be more tainted than the PNC.
The PPP has gotten away with a lot in Guyana, because of our collective instincts to think in binary terms-us versus them. There is an unwillingness to engage complexity. The PPP cannot be riggers because the PNC are the riggers. The PPP cannot be corrupt because the PNC is corrupt. The PPP is democratic because the PNC is authoritarian.
This is part of the problem I have with Nigel Hinds’ recent critique of SARU’s announcement that Guyana lost over 300 billion dollars annually through corruption under the PPP. Hinds, who is very astute, unfortunately reduced the issue to numbers and to the political record of Clive Thomas and the WPA. It is that kind of obliviousness to the political sociology of the country that has allowed the PPP to get away with the narrative of self-virtue.
Nigel Hinds does not set out to give the PPP a pass, but his twisting of the discourse away from its central objective of confronting the PPP’s corruption will end up achieving that objective.
Yes, we don’t want an unaccountable SARA that is above the law and we certainly don’t want any individual to have extreme power. Yes, you can challenge the methodology used by Clive Thomas in arriving at his estimation of how much we have lost. Yes, you can castigate the WPA for abandoning the working class and Walter Rodney.
But at the end of the day the central issue is confronting corruption under the PPP which I think Hinds would agree reached unprecedented heights under the PPP. It is not about making Jagdeo or any PPP leader homeless; it’s about dismantling the out of control mansion of corruption which afflicts Guyana. There must be a way to critique the WPA and Thomas and to argue over the accuracy of numbers without discrediting the genuine effort to combat the cancer of corruption.
The second source of the PPP’s recent action is the government’s faulty political tactics. After almost two years in office, it has not worked out a viable political praxis. Government does good things, but it has not been able to place it within a larger political frame or vision. The absence of that vision has meant that there is no clear approach to neutralizing the PPP’s definite agenda of undermining the government. The latter has sent mixed messages about confronting the PPP’s transgressions while in office. It commissioned audits but is slow to act on their findings. It set up SARU, but had to be pushed to move the legislation to the National Assembly.
Frankly, I think the ambivalence has to do with the “government as usual” mentality of powerful government leaders who are not interested in transforming the country’s governance and politics. For these leaders, political power should not be used to revolutionize the society. They fail to grasp the dynamics of recent post-colonial societies like Guyana; that our salvation lies in constantly trying to break out of the plantation mode through our own creative intellectual initiatives Slavery and colonialism were defeated not by accommodation and assimilation, but by bold alternative movement.
The PPP is taking advantage of this paucity of political conviction on the part of the government. It is trying to pin its sins on them in the crudest manner. I will defend the PPP’s right to express itself and challenge the government. But the government should meet such challenge with a clear democratic alternative vision and praxis.
Minister Harmon took me to task for suggesting that the government sometimes behave like a modified PPP. His observations about the difference in the character of the two outfits are well taken.
But I am sure he would agree that the behaviour of the Georgetown Mayor and her party colleagues on the parking meter issue and the vendors’ problems resembles the bullying made normative by the PPP. He may not agree, but there has not been any definitive economic alternative to the one pursued by the PPP. The success of this government lies in its ability to distinguish itself in word and deed from the PPP.
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