The year 2015 will go down in the annals of Guyana’s history as a watershed year – and for many reasons. The year dawned with a still-prorogued Parliament ordered by the then President Donald Ramotar in an effort to stave off an inevitable No Confidence motion tabled by Moses Nagamotoo of the Alliance For Change (AFC) . Public opinion surmised that the delaying tactics of the PPP were a desperate effort to buy time to further enlarge its burgeoning war chest; buy more time to spread its message of “if we give them a chance we will go back to the days of rice flour”; increase the decibels of the racist drum beat and visit more bottom houses to spew its fear-mongering. The announcement of an election date sounded the death-knell of the PPP and its 23 year reign of hegemony, spite, unbridled corruption and nepotism of unparalleled proportions.
The sleepy and moribund supporters of the opposition parties that stayed away from the polls in the past believing that their vote would not matter, and that victory was impossible due to an ethnic imbalance were rudely awakened from their Rip Van Winklesque slumber and propelled into action. Enough had become too much from the weight of the yoke thrust upon them by a hand-picked successor whose puppeteer soon realized that a political puppets needs some degree of smarts to allow it to function as it should, and that despite how well he pulled the strings, success wasn’t guaranteed.
And so it was that elections were held on May 11, 2015. Guyanese, for the first time since the fifties, and (not counting the recent questionable PPP victories), voted for change, and a government that is truly representative of all its peoples and seemingly less concerned with the accumulation of personal wealth and self aggrandizement at the expense of the citizenry. To say that shock and awe were evident throughout the PPP camp would be an understatement. In a few ensuing days, some minions managed to muster the courage to mount picketing exercises alleging electoral fraud. Surprisingly, all incidents of fraud emanated from the Ramotar camp and it may have escaped the notice of many that the examples of alleged number changing were only available to that party for submission to GECOM. One must wonder how only the PPP managed to gain access to alleged documents of fraud that would have been solely in the domain of the electoral commission.
First order of business was to clean up the garbage city of the world. Georgetown is now unrecognizable to anyone who has not visited since April, 2015. City Hall that was touted as corrupt and inefficient has done the impossible and Miss Sooba is sure to get lost if she visits the capital as there are now no familiar garbage piles to act as reference points. Planned restorations to the Town Hall will be the icing on the cake. Those of us who are old enough to know what was, are still wondering why and how we got to where we were. As if we didn’t know!
With the elections gone and memory of the plethora of promises to bring offending politicians to book for alleged corruption, the newly elected Granger-led government has been subjected to the ire of a public yearning for justice. So far, rhetoric and exposes have been the only comfort. President Granger, for his part, promised to provide lean, mean, clean and honest leadership and demanded the same from his appointees. With short shrift, the “lean and mean” promise was broken with the announcement of a larger-than-life cadre of ministers. Misstep number 2 was the announcement of an increase in old age pensions but with the removal of other subsidies that saw a net reduction in overall benefits. So much for the much touted Manifesto promise of “A Better Life for All.” But what really sent the government reeling was the sheer anger manifested from its supporters and detractors alike on the announcement of significant salary increases for Parliamentarians and government ministers. The coupe de grace was a terse statement from the government’s chief spokesperson at the time, that there were no apologies on offer. The outcry was so resounding that it forced the spokesperson to eat crow and proffer an apology. Further explanations clarified the fact that there was no wholesale 50% across-the-board increase but structured adjustments to address systemic anomalies and level the playing field. Only time will tell whether this humungous blunder has fatally wounded the government but coming so soon after the victory, it served to highlight the fact that the coalition would be better served by hiring qualified PR persons rather than rely on politicians not yet versed in the art of political diplomacy, to get its messages across.
As the days wore on, and attempts were being made to place round pegs in the holes where they rightfully belong, the cries of witch-hunt and victimization became cacophonous. Too little too late, some said. The government, with significant assistance from the international community is slowly building a case against alleged transgressors of the previous regime. However, one wonders why there is this unwise urge to regularly leak excruciating details to the press when irritable and punch drunk citizens don’t care about the process but rather about the results.
For his part, former President Jagdeo, in true Putin style, and recognizing his blunder in dictatorially foisting an unpopular Donald Ramotar on the party, had been able to wrest control of the PPP, hand-pick his team, and is hell bent on overturning the term limit law to allow himself to once more rule Guyana. It is debatable whether this move is as the result of a desire to safeguard his legacy by improving on his dismal performance as President or to save his own hide, or both. His list of detractors both in and out of the PPP has significantly increased and he has since admitted that it was “arrogance and complacency” that really cost the party its electoral loss. In true grassroots style he is now regularly photographed, among other things, swinging in bottom house hammocks and handing out food to the needy. A legal challenge will determine whether or not he gets his wish.
The year ended with a cabinet reshuffle, some of which passed without note. However, the removal of Minister Simona Broomes from within the Ministry of Social Protection – allegedly at the behest of the senior Minister Volda Lawrence ruffled more than a few feathers including those of yours truly. Minister Broomes’ brash and no-nonsense style has earned her more kudos than brickbats, from a wide cross section of society and her successes at securing financial and other relief for aggrieved and exploited employees have endeared her to the public. To remove her from a Ministry within which she has been so successful not only seemed inexplicable, but defied logic. President Granger has since provided an explanation that is both plausible and logical and I, for one, have accepted it at face value. With her intimate knowledge of mining (previously being a miner herself), and with the inherited shambles within that department of the Ministry of Natural Resources, she is sure to prove an asset. The President’s decision which erstwhile seemed to be born out of weak leadership can now be viewed as a smart move and in the national good.
The year ahead is going to be even more challenging for the fledgling government as it continues on its quest to provide justice to angry voters. This may not materialize as soon as some may wish but if the evidence is there, it would be unwise to allow the guilty to go unpunished. The emphasis seems to be on garnering evidence, carefully building a case and then seeking conviction and reparation. Those who erstwhile thought that power provided a shield from providing answers to taxpayers must now be thinking twice and airlines may be the beneficiaries of much needed revenue as the acknowledged guilty attempt to flee to countries where their filthy lucre is stashed. Global money-laundering practices may not be on their side as the US, which is the country of choice, may well assist in repatriation exercises.
It is going to be some time before the first well churns up the first barrel of oil. It is going to be some time before we realize the benefits of structural adjustments to the sugar industry. It is going to be some time before reliable markets are secured for our rice. It is going to be some time before the world makes Mr. Maduro understand that you don’t pick a fight with your neighbour or covet their land just because your house is on fire. President Granger would be well advised to sit the management of GPL down and explain to them the error of their senseless ways re their decision regarding disconnections or he will have yet another bonfire on his doorsteps. All in all, a people are hopeful and the future looks bright. The ball is in the court of the new government to either make or break. For our sakes, I hope they choose the former. The APNU-AFC must know that unlike the PPP, they do not have the luxury of robotic supporters who would vote for them, regardless…… They’ve already had a taste of what to expect.