It could easily be Political Purgatory…except that there is more repetition than expiation of sins.
The inerrant rhythm with which this new Administration is repeating the scandals and infractions of the previous one gives the sense that this was all they learned – some say all they were waiting for– as they sat on the sidelines in opposition for twenty three years.
The prorogation and subsequent election in 2015 was a gift from political heaven and voters fed up with People’s Progressive Party politicians’ misuse of public office made the trek to the polls to eject them.
There was hope.
In the realm where these things are decided, the candidate for President was exalted as a nimble thinker, with an academic dexterity and a propensity for honesty that would have immediately stamped a new face on the country which has been branded as corrupt by every international index.
Plus, the Coalition seemed to marry all differences with the coalescing of the hybrid A Partnership For National Unity, APNU, with its younger rival Alliance For Change, AFC, which had just been boosted by Prime Ministerial Candidate Nagamootoo, whose career in politics is, indisputably, qualifying.
And they won.
But what has happened since remains a veritable enigma.
In direct contrast to its Manifesto- as detailed under Section Good Governance- there remains a promiscuous interaction between corruption and those in position of power who act on behalf of government; creating a symbiosis that places government and graft always in discomfiting proximity to each other- so much like the image of the government that was ejected for this main reason.
The result is now a palpable crisis of confidence in this Coalition Administration, even as it chugged to its half way mark. In just twenty four months, it has grown unpopular at the grassroots. With a blend of pomp and self-interest, tempered by selective execution and questionable efficiency, officials lurch on, unpopular and unaware of it, consumed by power and privilege, forgetting how they got where they are.
There are complaints that the upper echelon of this government is supremely stuffy and unapproachable, monastic, conveniently invocative of protocol to avoid discussing concerns and flippantly dismissive of those who seek to offer opinion or advice, as is the prerogative of all Guyanese, especially those who go to the polls.
If they were less insulated, they would have realized that the sharp whispers which began in 2015 when the forensic audits began their slow march, became audible grumbles when the government took a 50% pay hike a few weeks later, then ballooned into belligerent protests when cronyism took center stage with the fallout from the Bai Shan Lin oriental express and with the continued cascading of infractions by government officials and agents, the pitch from the electorate is now at bellicosity. Like a musical score that heightens with an unscripted clashing of cymbals, each day seems to bring an infraction that is worse than its predecessor.
And nothing is done…offenders remain to become repeat offenders.
The most recent scandal involves Guyana Revenue Authority, a rich man, an imported vehicle bearing tags that were issued before the manufacture of the vehicle, a diligent customs/tax agent and a question as to why a new vehicle would have old tags. Investigating the incongruence of new vehicle with old tags resulted in the agent’s supervisor stepping in and summarily shutting down the required scrutiny after reprimand and rebuke, instead of compliment on diligence….
…maybe an inherently insoluble problem; modernizing with out changing; looking forward with eyes fixed on the past.
Which brings us to leadership.
Many still think that the President is an honest man of impeccable integrity but they dilute those traits when they consider how many knaves and reprobates function at his discretion…how men of means seem not to be held to the law. How much longer can this President lay his character- capital on the line and expect it to be free of blemish? Voters understand the need for loyalty but they’re not prepared to trade loyalty for skulduggery- which has now become a matter of course…again.
Stuff is piling up here.
Voters are still feeling the disrespect of the Local Government Elections , LGE, which were manipulated with such brazen unsophistication that the takeaway by the electorate is that the elections were for the government and not the people.
The ushering in of the old city council guard tells them that this government is wary of forward-looking, developmentalist, evolutionary thinking and is at home with the politically haggard, backward, thinkers who make deals like the now infamous parking meter shame which has marred this administration which had the privilege of calling LGE for the first time in twenty two years.
If this government knew how to listen, it would realize that – yes- social media is a venerable political thermometer and that they have a critical fever. They would note that there are citizens who are very dexterous in the process of polling and projections and that they engage a large swath of the electorate via this platform, discussing issues that should be critical to decisions this government makes.
In one of the very arresting analyses, the calculation showed is that there are some 15 -20 thousand undecided voters who, if successfully wooed by the PPP, could give them about 3-4 Parliamentary seats in the upcoming election. The opinion goes on to say “the old has beens Jagdeo, Luncheon, Rohee, Texeira, Nandalall and some of the others scamps should be gotten rid of to make the ticket attractive”. Then…. “Let the young generation of the PPP take over and many undecided voters, including me, will consider voting for them. We already know what Demons they are and we now know what Demons Granger’s crew are. The AFC is now a spent force and shouldn’t be taken seriously.”
This level of sentiment is frightening at best, telling, to say the least.
After 23 years of the “Demons of the PPP”, for them to still hold strong appeal to voters who voted for the coalition but now feel that they have wasted their vote, says that this new government is losing the swing voter by a significant percentage.
This crisis in confidence is not just about electorate disenchantment with the mechanics of governance. It highlights the chronic weakness of leadership, an over-dependence on delegation, a failure of effective supervision and a wobbly government which seems more comfortable deflecting and defending, reacting and explaining, hedging its political capital on obsolete political methods.
The cardinal sins of politics have been committed here… to keep the biblical theme of Purgatory going.
There are sins of omission – the failure to co-opt younger leaders who come with their constituency and invite the fresh ideas and zealous participation that occurs on social media.
There are sins of commission – failure to suppress the virulent opposition propaganda machine by employing a proactive government communications team and special advisers, dedicated to dynamic dissemination of vital information and Communications to infect public views against adverse publication.
The result is a riptide of impatience with this President who is seen as a cloistered academic communicating to his men via intercom.
Too much shallow common sense here, frigid elegance, faux diplomacy.
This President was elected so that the broken systems of government could be righted. His plan for a strong economy, good schools, efficient transportation for all Guyanese, promised long evaded quality of life. Voters saw a candidate with a background in leadership, one who understood that the old system of governing no longer provided solutions to critical economic and social problems.
They wanted a professional supplicant.
Instead, there are agents free styling without accountability, an overflow of bloviation and a deluge of dominance, with just a hint of controlled moderation, to keep the citizenry reminded that they are now the monopolists of power and privilege.
It’s a ladder of descent.
It took those before them down, too.
The popularity and the legitimacy of this government that is still in its infancy is being destroyed from within.
Political muscle has atrophied.
The Manifesto, which endeared many to their call, has now been superseded by swollen ambitions and looped demonstrations of political ill-discipline and inexpertise because the tedium needed to vet appointees was seconded to political reward.
There are those who feel that their patriotism lies in seeking audience, one on one, with the Administration to share their opinions.
This may work, if any of them could attest to having been granted a meeting within the twenty four months, to discuss substantive grouses which were, then, actually addressed with rectification.
There’s virtual unanimity that the administration is encased in its own cocoon, pupating way too slowly, given their agenda and their shelf life.
What’s the reason for this subdued sentiment, the private huddles and weighed whispers, twenty four months into an administration that remains in perpetual nose dive?
The general answer is a mash of words that conflate public government with private friendship.
In the end, this has to be about salvaging this battered country, preparing a new generation to lead and denying the reins of power from those who would be despots.
To those who prefer to tiptoe into private meetings and soothe those who are failing at governance with measured murmurs to retain their ear, I say this.
Criticizing government is neither condemning it nor praising its opposition.
It’s making a bold admonition of what it is getting wrong in the hope that it would not remain mired in its errors.
The sideline is a position of privilege, a different vantage point, from which we can offer advice which ofttimes comes as reproach.
It’s a platform for progress not a parking place, a point of neutrality, for those who want to claim activism by offering quiet piety.