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OPINION: The elections scene: saying only the right things, hitting the high appealing notes

by GHK Lall

I keep asking myself: Who are these people? How is it that we keep manufacturing them like clockwork every elections season? It is small wonder that we are left with what we have known all along, and which promises to dominate the proceedings again going forward.

For a brief moment, they stirred hope, but have now blended into the political woodwork, through what are called coalitions; a triumvirate did on Friday. This society has lost yet again and stuck in the same divisive rut, with the old and failed. The new came, more with style and pageantry than of any deep or durable substance. They delivered their lines with an aplomb that failed to mask the blandness that is all about surface sheen.

Look carefully: the newcomers were always in sync and in step. If any Guyanese heard one stray word, one out of place phrase, they are the lucky ones. If any citizen noticed a smile that was strained, a tie knotted incorrectly, or a hemline or plunge line that was a shade untoward, they were in the right place at the right time. It is difficult to recall any instance of men and women faltering, hesitating, slipping during this exciting election hour; not one strand of hair wandering. They were all on their best behavior, impeccable is a thought that comes. Now if all of this is so, then why are they fading even before they started?

There is the gloss of the well-practiced, of the well-schooled, of the ultra-careful, of those who know what it takes, what has to be marketed, and were skilled at playing the game. It is a game, with little of genuine commitment. The words flowed; they are easy, they are cheap, but they lacked honesty. None was intended, and if this is viewed as the height of cynicism, then our ongoing national narrative—our rickety, nasty, ugly political history—stand as corroborating testimony. Our Guyanese aspirants come, like Greeks, with the fancy gifts of themselves to us, while the authenticity of purpose of most of them, leaves us decimated like the Trojans of old.

If half, only half—maybe a quarter—of the things asserted by half of the new people were seriously envisioned, then this country would have been well on its way to fixing itself. Come to think of it, Guyana may be ready to advance to that place, where it could proudly and authoritatively say that we have no problems, we have none that are insuperable, and for which we are not up to the task. We can do it, for we can conquer our demons. We can triumph when it matters, regardless of what is required.

When all of these positions are made, all of these promises sworn to, all of these visions tabled, I remind of those mountains which we always have failed to overcome. There is that slight drawback that comes from reconciling words with deeds. I question: Where are those deeds? Where were those deeds that align with the presentations, that did engage our interest, our hearts? Why is there nothing around that resembles in passing something tangible from those forced to pick up the pieces?

This is the biggest game in this town, isn’t it? It is bigger than oil, because if the right words and positionings and things are put into motion, then the control of the oil comes. The rush for the prize for self was the primary objective. The strength and standing from being near and being able to take care of one’s own interests. It has always been in this way here. There is the key: power. Power attracts and compels; it makes men forget their best intentions and their better impulses; it makes callous, rapacious beasts of them. Except that these know the language and it is not the menacing, or chilling, or discomforting.

Instead, I hear them tell Guyanese those soothing things that make them forget and give yet another chance, like trusting domestic abuse victims; it could be fatal. Tell the deceptions and vast hypocrisies that engage and mesmerize the inhabitants of this land. They will come back for more; they may even believe that; this once, somebody is not selling them a cobra for a kitten. Or another sweetheart deal, or another can’t lose proposition. Well, that is all that Guyanese have ever known: political propositions that have blown up in their faces and made bumbling idiots of us. There is nothing puzzling about them, since what is observed, in the main, is a bunch of men and women calculating what is best for them, and them alone.

I think that politics and governance have descended to function as lamppost and public convenience in this country. It is where all comers, inclusive of professional vagrants and the ethically-hollow, go to relieve themselves. It does not take much imagination what they heap upon the Guyanese people.

Label them with whatever comes to mind, and it fits: propagandists, marketers, salespeople, confidence women and three-card men. Politics in this country, and especially around elections time, is the biggest shell game around. And it always seems to come with a new band of transparent practitioners, who fall short before they start. Some may outlast today. After that, it is on their faces and then back to wherever they came from, the obscurity of the insipid. That is, unless they succeed in finding a merger to maintain presence. Some have, for whatever it will bring.

Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.