happened yesterday was a disgrace. It was a disgrace for the country, but most
of all it was a disgrace for the PNC/R. How is one to
take any party seriously which refuses to play by the constitutional rules, and
whose sole political tactic is disruption. Has the PNC learned
no lessons since 1992? Does it have no clue whatever about the international climate
and what is possible and what is not? Has it no respect for the visiting foreign
heads of government? And has it no respect for itself as a political entity?
Mr Robert Corbin, the Chairman of the PNC/R and the acting leader of the party
will no doubt claim that he had nothing to do with the break-away group under
Mr Philip Bynoe which took itself off to the Office of the President yesterday.
But if he does, he will be dissembling. Insofar as the PNC/R was a part of the
march, and insofar as it was at best clearly unable to control it, and insofar
as violence and criminal behaviour have accompanied the vast majority of previous
PNC protest actions, then the sole responsibility for what transpired must
be laid at the door of the party.
It may be true that the police made
some mistakes. It could be that it was not the wisest of decisions for them to
allow the march into the city at all (we surmise if the
Police had stopped the march, SN would have cried foul instead -
GUS). However, in their defence, they were probably trying to keep trouble
as far away from the Ocean View Hotel as possible. Once in the city, they were
clearly unprepared for the group which de-linked itself from the mainstream marchers
and converged on the President's office. One must presume that the force did not
consider the possibility that the OP would have been a target at that time.
It must be said, however, that whatever the police shortcomings may have been,
they are simply not the point. The point is the decisions, the approach and the
actions of the PNC/R in the current conditions. Yes, it is true that the Government
is incompetent. Yes, it is true that it is frustrating negotiating with them (true?
We seem to recall Hoyte tabled 17 "demands" and President Jagdeo accepted
ALL! - GUS). Yes it is true that they are weak. Yes, it is true that their
cumbersome collective leadership system makes them indecisive in some circumstances
and obdurate in others. Yes, it is true that they have no inkling of the extent
of the alienation of many Africans. Yes it is true that they have an indifferent
grasp of protocols. Yes, it is true that they have made every blunder in the book
since February 23. But does that justify the PNC/R doing what it did yesterday?
Absolutely, unequivocally not (agreed - weak government
is no reason/excuse for coup detat - GUS).
Of course, we might
anticipate that there will be anger in some quarters about the shootings which
took place inside the Office of the President. But let us be clear. Those who
hold the ultimate responsibility for that are not the guards who fired on the
people rampaging in the offices, and not even the Government; there is no way
the rioters could have been allowed either to trash or burn down the complex.
No, those who hold the ultimate moral responsibility for the deaths and injuries
are the ones who sent the victims into the building in the first place (the
PNC/R! - GUS).
And in case this is just an hors d'oeuvre
before the entree, let us repeat a warning which has been given before in these
columns. There are now a number of international instruments committing nations
to democratic practices, and making possible intervention by outside powers in
situations where elected governments have been removed extra-constitutionally.
The Inter-American Democracy Charter is the most recent such instrument
in this hemisphere, but it is not the only one. Prior to that there was the Santiago
Declaration of 1991, which required the member states of the Organization of American
States (OAS) to consult with one another about restoring democratic governments
which had been overthrown in coups. It will be recalled that it was under the
umbrella of this declaration that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was re-instated
Guyana is small in population and economically minuscule, and
the donor nations have invested too much capital in democracy here to allow it
to be washed away in a flood of hostility and irrationality. The PNC/R has to
take a decision and take it quickly. It has to decide what is achievable in the
current circumstances and how that can in fact best be legitimately obtained.
(It can forget about getting the Government to resign; before that would ever
happen, it would be too late because we would already be hurtling into the void.)
It may be that we need more radical changes to the framework of the state, or
it may be that for the moment the PNC/R feels that we need some heavyweight foreign
mediation when negotiating with the Government. Whatever the case, the party has
to call a halt now to its traditional tactics, evolve a new philosophy, and cut
loose all those who will not work within the constitutional framework of the state.
The PNC is the only mass organization the Africans have in this country
and it cannot treat that responsibility lightly. Based on the last election,
it also represents 42 per cent of the electorate. At the very least, therefore,
it owes its constituents honesty. It owes its constituents realistic assessments.
It owes its constituents a vision - a true vision, not a chimera. It owes its
constituents the promise of working to improve their lot by legal means (did
the PNC ever do this? - GUS). It owes its constituents hope - genuine
hope, not false hope based on violence. It owes its constituents the employment
of all its intellectual skills in the furtherance of their interests. And it owes
its constituents (as well as all other Guyanese) a peaceful future.
What the PNC/R decides to do now, will not only determine the future of the rest
of us, but will also determine its future as a political party
the horror of Wednesday's invasion of the presidential complex and the fatal shooting
of two of the invaders sink in, it is increasingly evident that all of society
- the decent, law-abiding, fair-minded in particular
- has to gird its collective conscience to help thwart the mayhem that laps ever
It is no longer possible for citizens to watch disinterestedly
at what is unfolding. Each citizen has to speak out against the daily outrages
no matter who they are committed by.
In no other democratic state
will the invasion and defilement of the President's Office be treated lightly.
The deaths of protesters and injuries to others as a result
of Wednesday's invasion is unfortunate and regrettable. What were the protesters
doing? Who had inspired them to mount this mission of madness? That so many "protesters"
were detained within the compound points to dangerous and sinister motivations.
What if the President was in office at the time and the protesters were heavily
armed? The consequences of such a confrontation is too
shocking even to contemplate. Obviously security at the presidential complex will
have to be boosted and not only for periods of tension. Those
who orchestrated, incited and committed the acts must be punished by the full
weight of the law.
And what of the PNC/R?
As we said in yesterday's editorial it must take responsibility for what transpired
by virtue of its participation in the illegal march. Judging by its reaction yesterday,
the party is in denial. Party Chairman Robert Corbin told a press conference that
the PNC/R was not responsible for the actions of the protesters as the march was
organised by the People's Solidarity Movement (PSM).
He would only say that the PNC/R and the PSM shared similar concerns. It is an
explanation that holds no water. The PSM is an amorphous grouping that grew out
of the protest by bauxite workers who erected the now dismantled tent outside
the Prime Minister's residence. It shared a platform with PNC/R leader Desmond
Hoyte and its Chairman Robert Corbin during which the
organiser of Wednesday's march, Phillip Bynoe stridently and openly called for the removal of the
government. This call was later endorsed by Mr Hoyte. So when the PNC/R shares the stage with the PSM
it also shares responsibility for its reckless actions.
And make no
mistake about it. The real power in the East Coast villages is not the PSM. The
real power resides in the PNC/R. Its constituency is well mobilised in traditional strongholds like Buxton, Nabaclis and Bachelor's Adventure. So while Mr Bynoe might be canvassing directly,
he is doing it with the full knowledge and co-operation of the PNC/R. Would
the PNC/R stand by idly and allow Hammie Green and Odinga
Lumumba to mobilise support in these villages for a cause the party did
not support and fully subscribe to? No. The experiences of Messrs
Lumumba, Jeffrey et al while campaigning in South
Georgetown for the 2001 elections is ample testimony to this.
So there is no escape for the PNC/R from culpability. It is the continuation of
a long line of violence-laden demonstrations and provocations that are leading
nowhere but insanity and have now resulted in the deaths of two persons.
As to the motivation behind the march on Wednesday, Mr
Corbin had this to say while condemning the destruction that took place and commiserating
over deaths and injuries: "We, however, understand the bitterness, the frustrations
and the anger of the people who have lost all hope for a better future. The dilemma
for Guyana is
that there can be no order without justice and no justice without order. However,
as far as we are concerned, there are no limits to peaceful protest".
That is the type of unfounded rhetoric that is resulting in the mayhem ignited
on Wednesday. The justice that Mr Corbin says the protesters
are seeking and the frustrations and anger that they are feeling are as much the
responsibility of his party as it is of the PPP/C. The ruling party has been at
the wheel for 10 years, his was at it for much longer. The injustice, the anger
and frustrations have simmered and fermented for the entire period. It is only
easier and neater now for it to be expressed with the violence and vociferousness
that is being displayed by the villagers.
real challenge for the PNC/R - and it doesn't require violent and disruptive protests
- is to work out the system of governance and democracy it wants for the future.
If its constituency feels alienated, angry and deprived it is probably because
it believes that its party has no means of returning to office through the current
democratic framework. That conundrum requires a much deeper and forthright discussion
with the governing party and civil society on the future of the country. That
discussion cannot be synthesised through inflammatory
broadcasts, seditious speeches, violent demonstrations and half-truths. The
PNC/R has to come around to this reality and behave responsibly