2018 AND WAITING

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For its 32 months in Government the Coalition knew not why it was there.

It took office at a time when autocracy had become the unofficial but the singular political order; when governing was executed in irritable mental gestures – spurts of malice against the larger population with jitters of anxiety to cover up an array of governing improprieties.

The Coalition would infuse national politics with brio; bringing an elegance to its conduct and altering its trajectory while repairing an image that would restore international respect for Guyana’s  model of governance, thought the people.

That was the hope.

Today, governing is soiled by petulant operatives whose irritable gestures lack mental ingredients. And, calculating the number of its slip ups, retractions, apologies and do-overs, this Coalition should be keeping an appointment with the political psychotherapist.

Hmm…here it comes, the furrowed brow of practiced surprise and the stroked chin of faux contemplation, maybe even a stomp or two, as the leaders and their tentacles retreat to whisper amongst themselves about us; traitors who don’t know….

Maybe we don’t because you’re not telling us and when you do we’re not sure if we should believe you.

For all the hope that it presented, the Coalition’s execution of politics has lost its place to practices that were reprehensible before this government took office and remains repugnant now that they are suggesting its palatability. In way too many areas, it has left a mark by blunder, inattention, miscomprehension, or willfulness.

Not much of a surprise, really, for those who looked beyond the bewitchment of collective euphoria when the PPP was ousted.  There was a feeling of foreboding as they scanned the chosen team, many of whom read like an assembly of the unqualified, the incompetent and the destructive, with many of them being all three of these things.

Where was the Manifesto’s Strategic Planning, bottom of page 12  item 4 which promised: Ministers will submit quarterly reports to the head of Govt.
Short shrift was made of that pledge…nothing happened after the first quarter…or the second…or the third… which made us all wonder who was the Head of…

Guyana may be as broken as any other broken country, but it offers testament, not to some inherent national inability to govern but to a political culture that sits in the carry over column of the nation’s general ledger of politics.

Every government seems committed to the practices of politics past, fighting more for its party and ideological paramountcy than to improve the lot of those who elected them.

This is why this Coalition remains in perpetual triage from self-inflicted wounds; why it seems to be operating from the far side of a chasm that exists between it and its ideas; those old things that the old advisors from the way-back party cadre would proffer as doable. Maybe in trying to renew all things it’s forgetting to renew itself…forgetting to use its Manifesto as a cheat sheet…maybe.

Fact is, the fresh ideas and fresh thinking never made it to the start line.

We remember the heightened anticipation on the eve of his election when David said to his supporters hang in for 23 more hours… you’ve waited for 23 years…. APNU+AFC will create a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). I am talking about the wealth coming out the mineral wealth of this country will go into SWF for future generations. You will not be poor again because some minister can’t keep his sticky finger out”.

Thirty two months later David is defending the appearance of that “sticky finger”because he approved a play that smelled like fingers with sticky on them.

Why?

And this is why brutal and honest are such compatible adjectives.

Disappointingly, this government sashayed in to office with a coterie of Advisors, experienced in everything but the arcana of politics. To this, add what has been lamented as the nature of the President, irreconcilably obstinate and impervious to anything that falls outside of his arc of creation.

This may explain why the very simple strategy of telling the truth about receiving ‘upfront’ money from Exxon became a protracted journey through the hubris, ignorance, pomposity and plain stupidity of those who issued statements with an indignation and defiance that relegated everything to cover up.

Lets’ set this thing up to see how much sense it makes.

Christopher Ram’s act of revealing the upfront payment was done only because he knew the money was not placed in the prescribed Consolidated Fund. Common sense dictates that if he knew there was money paid, and that it was not where it should be, he knew exactly where it was or else he would have cried theft a long time ago and disclosed whose wheelbarrow had carted it off.

Now, if he knew that it was in Bank Of Guyana, he had to know that it was set aside for possible fees to fight for the country’s borders – which makes us all wonder why, a cause so infinitely noble, could not have been revealed months ago by the government which chose, instead, to offer some impotent concoction about not wanting Venezuela  to know it was financially able to mount International Court representation to defend its borders.

So, Jagdeo and his Party, the purveyors of decades of thuggery and skullduggery, got an opportunity to take a victory lap by publishing the first page of the leaked letter about the receipt of millions, which, if read carefully, refers to ‘undermentioned’ info, and offers specific instructions for the  amount to be lodged as an interest bearing instrument…which makes the action non incriminating and not embezzlement at all…but why make that the focal point of the release when raising a scandal, PPP through Ram?

Thing is, if the government wanted to offer a more non inflated reason for deviating from normal course, it would have gained yardage by citing some of the little discussed problems inherited from the PPP that they are still stumbling to resolve.

There is that pesky issue associated with the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas of having to re-pay millions of undue enrichment taxes back to Trinidad and Suriname- some eleven million total …cases that Chris Ram himself faulted the PPP and its Anil Nandlall for, that were never paid during their tenure in government.

None of this was even alluded to during the defence of what has devolved into the scandalous Exxon signing bonus saga.
Actually, nothing sensible was.

So, much of what became visible government looked like a China shop after a visit from a very inartful bull.

And to clean up, the President has come out with a mea maxima culpa that sounds more like a primal chest pound…. “I am the head of Government. I am responsible. I am aware of it. It is legitimate.”

Who doubted any of those things, Sir?

How about a humble explanation of the sequence of events to the people you work for, you know, voters and particularly the swing voters who took you into office?

Maybe you’re not noticing, but there’s a general unease because of this very attitude; a collective  anxiety that the government functions as a self –contained entity which feels that answering the public is a gratuity….

Painful situational irony here, considering its election was to forge inclusive government, one that would transcend the previous models of colonialism and autocracy.

The high handed approach is a profound failure of empathy which extends the expanding disconnect between government and those who would support it. This can’t be said enough, yet it remains amongst the unflattering constants of this Administration.

A President having to apologize for some clumsy money kerfuffling that is now clothed in the name of operational discretion has certainly chipped away at gravitas, leaving a scent that “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten”.
The plan, of necessity, must now be one that is predicated upon humility since, as has been proven in this debacle, mal adroit stratagem and haughtiness make for political defamation and electorate distrust.

Maybe the recent shedding of Advisory Staff is a hint that the President is finally weighing product outcomes against designations, so, there may be a refitting of the functional tight shoes worn by those whose demonstrated capabilities fall far short of their portfolios.

And the Exxon humiliation is yet another example of Team Communications being outpaced by news cycles. Even this, a slow and extended release scandal, challenged its flexibility and agility to counter the story and it is yet to mount any form of viable defence in the face of allegations that still hold the optical upper hand.

Couple of things.

Information, any information, moves politics. This gives government dissemination and Opposition propaganda equal footing, so, it stands to reason when one fails the other succeeds.

That now famously amorphous Exxon excuse rolled out with embarrassingly efficient amateurishness by the government’s machine, can now take a bow for shining the spotlight on Coalition honesty.

And while the Government stumbled with every attempt to regroup, Jagdeo hijacked the general discourse, infected it with massive doses of PPP propaganda and deployed it via its multiple and well coordinated platforms, to Guyanese everywhere… effectively smothering the Coalition’s message which remains popular only in its enclaves because Coalition messengers lack the political linguality to speak politics beyond their Partisan Ideology.

It’s discomfiting that they’re not employing the full gambit of the network of communication. Voters engage unconventional media in significant numbers, establishing a kind of mass intimacy for political exchange.

Poor people from Albouystown, Mocha and Wales are not on Facebook, they say….the classic indicator that resistance is preferred to change. They scuttle to the traditional cadence and taunting and jibing performance at Party road corner meetings which remain their comfort zones…as are the geographic locations in which there is least hostility.

It is easy, too, to refuse to accept the leverage of word of mouth, the unparalleled access that informal distribution now has on those who vote or influence their vote. That would mean doing a new thing which remains the nemesis of partisan operatives in this Coalition.

How do you know what the people think, they ask.

Seriously. To even suggest that public sentiment cannot be measured without scientific instrument, given the proliferation of Opposition Propaganda, the frequency of Coalition miss-steps and the fact that the Coalition is not wildly popular, is just trite.

Metrics is no longer a matter of archaic counting, particularly if there is no Russian interference.

That said, the Coalition enters 2018 preceded by doubt.

Opposition Propaganda continues to out run national news. Jagdeo remains the consummate provocateur, citing the lack of Coalition job creation and economy stimulation, as existed under PPP tenure.

No Coalition response yet on the fact that job creation under Jagdeo was a result of dark money; that the night life that contributed so immensely to the economy was largely a product of money laundering and the issuing of citizenship to foreign nationals as bait for their votes; that waitressing and restaurant employment in a country that has no substantial tourist industry does not constitute job growth mainly because of its turnover rate; that family enterprise employing family members on an informal basis does not contribute to job growth and…

… if there was as much substantial job and economic growth as Jagdeo claims, then the current unemployment rate would be much lower, given that government has changed hands for less than three years.

For the twenty three years of government under the PPP, there was a lack of prescience in the Sugar Industry which failed to prepare it for the effects of global warming, the final phase out of the preferential trade agreement made more than 40 years ago and began when Jagdeo was still at the wheel, alternate sugar products and the impending loss in the wake of the lack of preparations for all of these things.

Not surprisingly, when 4000 Sugar workers were laid off in December 2017, the ever-lurking Jagdeo seized that opportunity to make the lay off the failure of the Coalition and began his campaign bid by promising the emotionally fragile unemployed workers reparations for the period they were laid off plus higher salaries, if they elect him in 2020….all this as he scoffs at the treasuries lack of funds.

With his rhetoric commanding the attention of every Guyanese, Jagdeo has positioned himself for a presidential run in 2020.

Guess like the rest of us, he’s thinking he can get away with it not only because the Constitution is yet to be reformed but because he has stifled Coalition messaging with his misinformation war games.

The Coalition has lots of positives, say supporters.

Would be good to have this reported in volume, with consistency and on multiple platforms to match and overtake the propaganda that speaks to its contrary.

There’s a reason why Rhetoric is not so fondly referred to, in literary circles, as the harlot of the humanities.

It’ll prostitute for anyone.

Team Coalition had better get some.

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