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OPINION: Political calculations and positions against a unity government

By GHK Lall

The first thing I wish to emphasize is that I am for a unity government, or any other name that it may be called, once that underlying, defining cornerstone is an integral aspect of the mix. Despite all the failures from local history and unconvincing, pseudo-inclusive exercises, such an ensemble has never been genuinely tried. Talked about and waved about, whilst being occasionally heated and stirred, but never really explored with strength and conviction of the soul. Though I am for it, I share today what I believe are the near insurmountable odds against it happening unless stuffed down the gullet, and given a chance to take root.

Starting with the PNC, this is a nonstarter. After 23 years in the barren desert and away from the political power apparatus, its people would be sharply resistant to such a development. They have had nothing, and after some four years at the helm, too many are still wasting away on the edges of wanting and not having. Too little has been experienced, too early for anything other than that which is in place. In some places, this is construed as a sneaky, side-door maneuver to upend and diminish. I must reiterate that these sentiments and passions course through every party layer and precinct. For certainty, there are those in the leadership cadre, who abandon the practical and commonsensical for what is the personal and politically aggrandizing.

On the other side of the Guyanese racial and political rift valley, the PPP brass is immovably convinced that the bird is in hand. That is, all of the faithful needed to edge ahead in any head-to-head. So why do otherwise? Why be otherwise? Their people are not going anywhere, crossing any floor, or making any difference when the counting is over. The worst that supporters would do is sit on their hands. Correction: that would be one hand, so that the other is freed to facilitate any last-minute change of heart. The brass is right on all counts. There is neither incentive nor interest nor intent to dilute what is calculated to be a winning hand. And, as is well known, it has a topnotch machinery in place to squeeze something out of nothing and deliver victory. The party’s thinking is: why tamper with a formula that is advantageous? It is alright to talk about unity. But stop right there!

Moreover, the inner circles and high councils in both the PNC and PPP are unified on one thing and one thing only: this is about us, as in me, and what are the possibilities for me. None are ready mentally or spiritually to distance from the selfishly rewarding for the foolishly self-sacrificing. There is no personal gain embedded or promised. In an environment that demands evangelical fervor, but on this occasion towards a national objective, the temperature is lukewarm, the tone limp, and the pallor grey. Leaders and citizens are gifted at talking up a storm loaded with the empty, spurious, and artificial. But test them. Test them by asking them to separate from the flock and the pack. Ask them to stand for the yeoman sacrifices of country, of flag, and of a different and probably uplifting pathway, and it is no dice, no deal, no movement. Not when the gratifications tell of money, of position, of prestige, and of wine, women, and song. And of oil fables, too.

If anyone needs an overpowering reference, and as digression, I suggest that eyes be cast at the agonies involved in the dual citizenship matter. If there is love for country, then there is no internal debate, no painstaking decision. I would be the first to agree that much is involved, but this rises beyond the tangibles of the quantitative. It is about the indefinable qualitative. Each man and woman must define that for self. Each may define differently for different reasons. To be sure, there are the patronizing platitudes that speak of country and family and unity, and all the political plastic wraps that fit neatly and sweetly into convenient Ziploc bags that have a single utility in mind. It is, in the manner of Ziploc bags, to place in cold storage, where matters freeze to death. Embalmed. Forgotten. Ungrieved.

I will also stipulate that national fronts and patriotic fronts and unity fronts have limited life spans; that history and precedent do not testify glowingly. I offer again what I think affords this nation opportunity and space to inhale, to ponder, and to start over. A limited term (2-3 years maximum); a rehabilitated constitution (simple, comprehensive, and authentically national); a petroleum mechanism that persuades (part of the trouble). In addition, there should be a governance apparatus that distinguishes the executive from the legislative (read in broadest terms); and every deception and mistake and national disadvantage learned along the way addressed to a wiser degree, a practical extent. This may show that we have learned something through all the pain and misery. But we must want to do so and do so for ourselves.

Now, who wants to bell those cats? Who has the cojones to coalesce conversations as to what is stood for with the convictions of invested personal capital? No money. No return. No ambition. Not anything of anything, save for one thing. Just country.