SINCE losing power in 2015, the PPP, in addition to opposing the government–something all opposition parties do—has been relentless in its campaign to delegitimise the government, often without challenge from the governing parties. It started by planting the narrative that the new government did not win the 2015 election, that the PPP was cheated and that there was external collusion.
Second, it launched an ethnically laced narrative that the government was headed on a well thought out campaign to destroy Indian-Guyanese politically, economically and culturally. Third, it persistently frames the government’s mistakes as part of a larger ideological thrust that is grounded in a desire to dominate the state and the society. Fourth, it projects the PPP as the source of morality, expertise, competence and reason.
In a situation of competing narratives and approaches, the success of one side is largely dependent on the inability of the other side to advance a more effective and superior narrative. As I argued in last week’s column, the coalition has failed to effectively counter the PPP’s narrative and to advance a superior narrative of its own. The consequence is that the PPP has been able to consolidate its Indian- Guyanese base, including winning back that section which voted for the coalition parties in 2011 and 2015.
The PPP’s barrage in the context of weak responses from the coalition parties and basic errors of judgement by the government has had the effect of casting doubt in the minds of African -Guyanese. The party has also been able to successfully hitch its assault on the government to legitimate Civil Society concerns about and protests against government policies such as the parking meter issue, the sugar impasse, the broadcast legislation, the vendors issue and the wages struggle. This has led to the PPP gaining sympathy in sections of the media establishment, the business sector and the brown middle-class.
For the good of Guyana, the PPP’s barrage has to be countered and stopped. The coalition has made some big errors which must be corrected overnight if it is to overcome the PPP’s onslaught and win in 2020. Things must change. Part of the coalition’s base is demoralised—they don’t feel that much has changed. The PPP is having an unexpected resurgence—for a party that ruined Guyana, it is unbelievable that it could in two short years emerge as a credible force again. The coalition has a lot of corrective work to do. Last week, I spent a lot of time on the need for a clear, progressive world-view that should be grounded in the de-criminalisation of the State and a humane economic-praxis. This is imperative, because it is that worldview that would inform both policy content and direction and the narrative that explains such policy.
The coalition parties must be empowered and energised. A big error of the government is the attempt to run the coalition as a One-Party government. When you have parties with polar-opposite ideological orientations as the PNC and the WPA and with different ethnic bases as the APNU grouping and the AFC, such an approach is bound to be disastrous. The strength of a coalition is its diversity and the concourse of ideas that flow from that diversity, which in turn stand a better chance of crafting a more nationalist praxis and policy direction.
The leadership of the coalition has stifled internal diversity of opinion by limiting decision-making to the few Cabinet members and the presidency. In the process, it shut off participation by the coalition parties in decision-making. The parties of the coalition have been immobilised and muzzled by this approach. The outcome of this approach has been bad for the coalition. The AFC has lost its Indian-Guyanese support, because it is perceived as an uncritical participant in bad policy-making. The WPA faces an internal civil-war, because some of its members believe that it has allowed itself to be silenced and manipulated by the dominant partners in the government.
The PNC’s non-governmental leadership is demoralized, as they are not part of policy-making.
These developments have ignited unnecessary tension within the coalition– between the AFC and the APNU and between the WPA and the government, which has in turn negatively affected the image of the government and its ability to inspire confidence among its own supporters. This approach must change—for its own good, the coalition must begin to operate like a partnership rather than a unitary entity. Empowering the coalition parties in meaningful ways would in the long run be beneficial to the government and the country.
In some regards, the government seems to be angrier with and willing to confront critique by its supporters than to confront the barrage by the PPP. For example, the anger at Freddie Kissoon, Lincoln Lewis and David Hinds from some top government ministers is much more that at the PPP. Some have opined that our self-critique helps the PPP.
We are known supporters of the government who have made it very clear that we do not want to see the PPP back in power. But some in our government have not learned how to deal with internal creative dissent; they seem to prefer blind loyalty. Some government leaders do not understand the value of creative self-critique and how it puts you on a higher plane than your competitors who are grounded in an ideology of domination. They do not see how Freddie’s critique is more destructive to the PPP than to the coalition or how Lincoln’s cries for the rule of law keep them from walking the dirty road of the PPP.
The success of the coalition would depend on the ability of its three major parties to put an end to their immobilisation. It is high time the PNC, as a party, uses its enormous influence to force the government to stop marginalising its source—the coalition parties. The AFC should wake up and recover its reason for being and temper its seeming love affair with the trappings of power. The WPA must continue its public critiques of government’s ill-advised policies and its campaign for intra-coalition democracy, until there is change in those areas. Failure to act will see Jagdeo and the PPP gaining more traction while the coalition’s base becomes more demoralised. And I warn that when demoralisation becomes normative, even oil money would not change the state of play.
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