There is any litany of expletives that could capture the forced removal of residents from their homes in parts of Guyana, that are steeped in African inheritance.
The assertion that displacement, to favor the law of ‘Eminent Domain’ is compulsory, coming from a government in a sustained campaign of targeting Afro Guyanese, is the language of civil oppression that passes the muster of democracy compliance amongst the western watchdogs that prop up regimes that violate the tenets of democracy …for the ultimate gain of these Western supporters.
Without placing too broad of a historic point on this act of state sponsored terror, there are both political and racist roots that line up with the fearmongering waged against people of a similar ethnicity in bastions of racism like South Africa, subsequently condemned in a UN Resolution of 1962 .
Our comparison is not to discuss how well the condemnation has fared but to state that diplomatic engagement with Western nations is predicated and promoted upon nations – with which the West has diplomatic ties– adhering to human rights expectations– which is a strand in the tapestry of democracy that the West claims to champion.
The reward for compliance is a resident western diplomatic community which, in essence, says this is a country in whose political behavior they are well pleased. And the pleasure is demonstrated in financial assistance and programs intended to benefit the entire nation, all of the people, which means violating the space and rights of specific groups would controvert that stated mission.
Guyana is still a country with a Constitution that establishes this instrument as its supreme law. It is still a multiple Party State, with an elected Opposition which has the inherent obligation to work for all of the people by working with the ruling arm of government.
It is still a country in which every citizen is entitled to the basic right of intrinsic happiness and any deviation from this constitutional guarantee should be checked by the Opposition, whose function, as 50% of governance, is to negotiate reduced discomfort on behalf of the people.
Part of the mythology ascribed to the Opposition Leader is the idea that his years in his political Party commissioned him a savant- learned enough to go forth and lead at the national level.
Turns out he cannot differentiate between partisan and national politicking and hides his inabilities by skulking from his job in protracted boycotts that deprive the people of his service to negotiate on their behalf. Boycotting, it turns out, only superficially resembles concern for the people his arm of government should be fighting for, incessantly, during this tenure.
The fact is, the Opposition should be negotiating, understanding not only the pathology of its opponent but the imperative of meeting common ground, if it is to deliver on its obligation. The Leader’s advice for Mocha Residents to defy an order to move may, in whole or in part, be responsible for their current uprooting and ongoing demise.
The government that the diplomatic community has documented as willfully racially divisive, remains on this trajectory because it has become endemic in societal structure. It will take the honesty of politicians to accept that public policies and institutional practices are both predicated upon and driven by racism.
Unfortunately, neither the current Ruling Arm nor its Opposition has demonstrated this level of honesty.
Yet, this doesn’t give the Opposition the right to abandon the needs of the people who elected their representation…as a check and balance on governance.
The United Nations, to which Guyana and its Western resident diplomatic community are members with standing, recognizes housing and land rights as a human right and, therefore, denounces forced evictions.
Its dealings with South Africa, under oppressors Pieter Botha and Willem de Klerk, created decades of experience with separatists who forcibly removed blacks from their possessions by weaponizing the policy of eminent domain… when efforts to portray evictions as the cause of tenant negligence or impropriety began to be questioned by political opposition.
Sanctioning them in 1962 and then suspending them from the UN in 1974 for their racist practices put in place a patina of effort to protect Blacks which came in the form of declaring Adequate Housing a Human Right and forced eviction as a violation of human rights. It was a start.
An Opposition, when it understands its national mandate, the breadth and scope of its obligation, does these things.
And it’s more than the overseas trips for partisan fund raising and congregations on friendly street corners to bond over grievances. It’s beyond the boiler room meetings with supposed ‘insiders’ to field ‘complaints’ to be couriered to higher -ups.
Without gratuitous offering, theirs is a portfolio that gives them entry to all of the right access points. Yet, there is an operational apprehension that foretells a crippling lack of understanding what to do when and by whom.
Every source would inform that a core component of successful political leadership is humility. It doesn’t only give the leader a working sense of those he leads but combines compassion with common sense to effect civil conversation -which is the gateway to meeting at the point of doing things that are mutually beneficial.
A leader who forecasts refusal to engage the ruling arm of his governance caucus is not only unaware of what his job really is but and for whom he really works. Branding the position as loud and contentious has altered the office so much that it drains it of the dignity attached to these posts. Acting like a superhero for the cause of others who just want quick, tangible results is as self serving as public office can get.
What if the Opposition had, in service to its office, negotiated the alleged eminent domain into an alternate path, around the lives of people who only want to live in their make shift comforts, on a few of the 83,000 square miles of the country that remains 90% undeveloped. What if posturing were relegated to purpose…that of actually fulfilling the duties of office.
It’s the squealing pigs that got to us, the cold heartedness of deploying back hoes and graders; the use of the police- the existence of which is for community preservation– to grind the livelihoods of people into dust and rubble, to slaughter, with ammunition and bury alive, livestock; because the move wasn’t intended to be orderly or humane – but to decimate, intimidate, send a warning that the ruling Party will continue to violate the right to life and happiness with impunity…unencumbered by the check and balance elected entity, constitutionally labelled the Opposition, that fails because it doesn’t understand that governance is about partnerships at every level.
We’ve all paid the price for an ineffective Opposition, one that failed to establish a relationship as a constitutional entity of governance with the resident diplomatic community; one that lacks the acumen, the capacity, to present to the international bodies that support the alleged democracy of Guyana’s political rule, how much of the tenets of democratic living are violated as a matter of course.
Forced removal, a terrifying weapon against Blacks in South Africa, was taken to the UN in a delivery that was well constructed and presented with more proof, more principles, than performative passion.
This is what Guyana needs now, an Opposition Leader with the initiative to reconstruct the porous administrative module, the inclination, the disposition, to realize that leadership at this level is for public good, national development- light years away from the reptilian gratification of being coarse and unengaging.
Failing that, the country will be stuck with a graceless operative, in a parable of how limited options and herd mentality can deliver bad leadership …and will be poorer for it.