The President’s remarks at the 5th Biennial Conference of the PNCR – North American Region, a private political event in Atlanta, Georgia, must have raised the eyebrows of every sensible Guyanese. It is obvious that the President felt that he was speaking in confidence to a closed PNC grouping and therefore lowered his guard. I doubt that he expected his remarks to reach the media.
After pledging his firm commitment to the ideals of Forbes Burnham, the President is quoted as saying: “I think that they are several questions that you have to ask yourself as you look to the future. You have to ask yourself how the PNC gained office in 1964. Ask yourself how the PNC remain in Office and what it did to do so. Ask yourself how the PNC regained Office in 2015 and ask yourself how would the PNC retain Office in 2020. These are big questions.”
They certainly are.
It is important that we contextualize these questions along with the President’s recommitment to Forbes Burnham. When read together the message is clear. What does a recommitment to Forbes Burnham means in real politick? What was Burnham most infamous for, politically? Rigged elections, undemocratic, authoritarian rule, a readiness to resort to violence in respect of political opponents, for example the assisination of Dr. Walter Rodney, emasculating independent constitutional institutions like the Judiciary by virtue of the doctrine of party paramountcy, which made the PNC the most paramount institution in the state with all other institutions, including, the Judiciary being subservient to it; the flying of the party flag above the national flag in the compound of the country’s highest court at the time and the abolition of the Privy Council from Guyana’s legal system. These are just a few political attributes and events that quickly come to mind. So in the context of the acquisition and retention of political power, it is evident in my view, that it is these attributes and events to which the President is committing himself.
How did the PNC gained Office in 1964? The Cheddi Jagan Administration of the early 60s was virtually brought to its knees by racially motivated violent disturbances. It is in this environment and through a farcical coalition with the United Force (UF) – which lasted less than 4 years – and through assistance via imperialists intervention that the PNC gained power in 1964. How did it retain power from 1964 -1992? It rigged every elections from 1968 -1985. The first democratic elections held in post-independent Guyana, was held on October 5, 1992. The PNC lost those elections. How did it gain power in 2015? Again, it did so through another coalition the terms of which are contained in the Cummingsburg Accord, which the PNC has violated in multiple ways. We contend that the 2015 elections were tainted by many irregularities and malpractices and that the results finally declared by the Chief Elections Officer do not reflect the will of the electorate. Many are of the firm view that external assistance was also rendered.
In his speech, the President is, essentially, saying to the PNC what needs to be done to stay in power by asking them to reflect on how the PNC retained Government in the past. How it did so was through Burnhamism – rigged elections, undemocratic, authoritarian rule, a readiness to resort to violence in respect of political opponents, for example the assignation of Dr. Walter Rodney, emasculating independent constitutional institutions.
Repeatedly, over the past two and a half years I have been highlighting this Administration’s descent into authoritarianism. We have witnessed disrespect and abuse of the Judiciary, manipulations of recommendations coming from the Judicial Service Commission, executive interference with independent constitutional Commissions, interference with and sidelining of the Office of the DPP and the Guyana Police Force, the use of politically influenced SOCU to carry out investigations which should be done by the Guyana Police Force, the hiring of special prosecutors who are handpicked and are closely connected to the Administration without the authority of the DPP, the handpicking of auditors to do forensic audits without the authority of the Auditor General and perhaps the most egregious of them all, the unilateral and unconstitutional appointment of a Chairman of GECOM, who has admittedly lied about his qualifications.
So the President has laid bare his intentions, it is now up to the people of this country whether they will sit idly by and allow democracy to be slaughtered or they will do that which is necessary to halt the descent into political dictatorship.