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OPINION: Volda’s unhealthy foot-and-mouth

By GHK Lall

Talking without thinking? A rush of blood to the head? A private position publicly aired by a ranking party (public) official? Say it ain’t suh, Volda…. However looked at, this is bad news.

I submit that this is the political simplicity of job opportunities and hiring decisions here; always was, always is. As repeated constantly, the reality on the hiring grounds of Guyana has never been more than the microcosm of this straightforward construct: those with us are in; those not are out. Except that no political leader in living memory has had the candor and valor to present so easily and fluently to an enthralled citizenry. Already the cudgels are out and they are looking for somebody to pummel. This is not limited to an errant phrase or a single person; it impacts negatively a whole group and political dynamic. Even if 100% accurate, some things are simply best left unsaid. Many a wise woman (and man) has found sanctuary in the hypocrisy of stoic silence. As that American military wunderkind turned top White House official in the Reagan Administration, John Poindexter, said during the televised Iran-Contra Congressional hearings, he did what he had to do “so I could insulate him from the decision and provide some future deniability for the President in case it ever leaked out.” I call that deception by omission.

Well, that certainly did not happen when the Hon. Minister of Public Health and PNC Chairwoman threw caution to the winds and decided to tell the story as it is, and let the chips fall. I readily identify two primary places just rendered ineffectual, if not absolutely meaningless, by what can only be charitably described as Ms. Lawrence’s outburst. Methinks, it is a studied one. For starters, President Granger is now forced to duck and retreat from those noble visions articulated earlier; in the next instance, Dr. Norton and his once well-meaning and reasonably credible Social Cohesion program has just been shot to pieces. I apologize for the choice of words at the end of the preceding sentence (I might be the only doing any such thing). But if people (a certain kind, with full cognizance to racial and political contexts) are eliminated from the workplace, then it will take a lot of spinning for the party chairperson to wriggle out of this one, which is the equivalent of a foot and mouth state of affairs. This certainly makes rather redundant, if not outright silly, the call by Minister Harmon for an “impartial public service.” I see this more as clash of comrades and chairs, as opposed to one of champions. With the hiring philosophy espoused by Ms. Lawrence, “impartial public service” or impartial anything collapses. It is more than a difference between equals. Maybe, Mr. Ramkarran is more of a prophet than I am.

In this plural, wretched society, this is the last thing that any political leader of any stripe, any hue, any ideology, or any triumphalist tendency would want to utter, even mutter. Simply not done. And though marks are given for honesty and clarity, there can only be minuses for failure at both tactical and strategic levels. While the oftentimes serious side within must now pause and rethink the currency and future of so-called meritocracy in this country, this damning statement from the head lady might just compel me to give up any remnant of hope in that direction; or that there was any genuine interest to go anywhere remotely resembling even quasi-meritocracy in the first place. This might be good for internal political play, but it is severely unhelpful, unproductive, and unnecessary to social democracy and social compacts, such as they have resonated throughout the sorry history of this land. Sorry history should not degenerate to a sordid one.

Now while this might be good to electrify the disappointed and disgusted faithful, it is certainly saying things more ominous to those outside the party folds. To be sure, there are those (not without basis now) who will rush to join the bandwagon and denounce this development as a return to the good ole days of the party card and what that came to signify in terms of jobs and exclusion. Since I have gone this far, I must throw in the considerations and results that could be finalized that involve contracts, housing and scholarships, to touch on a few more sensitive areas. To defend the indefensible of this aspect of the enduring realpolitik of Guyana, I submit that the PNC Chairwoman could shelter on the umbrella of speaking in a charged political environment, with the caveat that the PNC’s ethnic base is so wide and diverse that not a scintilla of the discriminatory was intended, or that such could be achieved. That would be a hard sell, indeed; but more specious offerings have been laid time and again before an alternately swooning and outraged populace. If that fails to gain traction, then there is the cover (just as spurious) of being either misquoted or taken out of context. The one that I would settle for is being misunderstood, language depth and usage in this country duly considered.

Finally, the mischievous streak in me, which grows increasingly wider and more cynical by the moment, views this call as a timely warning to outsiders: Get on board! Get with the program! Get real and give up on the other fellas! Or else… I am left to wonder where this leaves me since I have very few friends of rank or distinction in the party. For that matter, any party. Perhaps, it is time for me to reconsider revisiting permanently my Uncle up north.