DR ERROL N BENJAMIN
THE GUYANA election fiasco to date should be of particular relevance to our own general election coming up shortly because of the similarities in our demographic evolution and the ensuing political outcomes.
The colonial experience had pitted the two major races, Africans and Indians, against each other from the start in both territories, with the Africans suspicious of the incoming Indian indentures whom they saw as a threat to their bargaining power as then freed Blacks.
With independence and the introduction of the two-party Westminster system of government, that original antipathy became exacerbated in the emerging politics in the formation of two opposing race-based parties, African against Indian, in both countries, giving rise to the Forbes Burnham/Cheddi Jagan and currently the David Granger/Bharrat Jagdeo dichotomy in Guyana, and in Trinidad the PNM /UNC continuing saga.
In Guyana that continuing adversarial relationship would find its most extreme manifestation during the Burnham era, with narratives of violence and murder against opponents being the order of those times, the murder of Walter Rodney being a case in point, and the Granger/Jagdeo situation seems to be on the same continuum, marked, if not by the same atrocities, by a level of intolerance which seems its more civilised equivalence.
The Chief Justice of Guyana has recently delivered a final judgment on the Guyana election in which she declared that the recounted votes and none other will be the final determinant of the results. But one can only pause and reflect how fairly straight-forward circumstances regarding the count could have been the cause of so much controversy and, indeed, so much ill will.
Without getting into the details with which those following the events would be familiar, how could a simple majority of one to necessitate new elections, so obvious in terms of the fact, be targeted for overturn and, with the latter settled, that there would have been an unusually long prolongation of holding the actual election? And with the latter also settled, that there has been so much controversy over the results, even though certified by a host of legitimate observers?
Is it that the historical adversarial relationship between the two races is playing out itself here? And is that traditional rivalry aggravated all the more by the excellent Guyanese prospects in terms of gas and oil which make holding onto political power a matter of life and death?
How else can you explain the fact that officials in high positions including within the organisation charged with the responsibility of conducting free and fair elections were prepared to manipulate the data to favour the incumbent?
You would expect the common people to stick to their political tribe irrespective, but won’t you expect that people of such high social standing, and by extension high moral grounding supposedly, to desist and instead strive for fair play and justice?
Maybe the tenet “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” applies here, and also the idea that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (radix malorum est cupiditas – Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale). Tribal rivalry in Guyanese politics has led to a complete disregard for certifiable truth, law and order.
Will our own tribal rivalry lead to much the same?
As usual, I leave that to your better judgment.