OPINION: Politicians must tackle racial divide head-on. But is it too late?

Last Updated on Tuesday, 4 February 2020, 17:19 by Writer

by GHK Lall

Reference is made to the article within the Elections 2020 section of Stabroek News on February 3 titled, “Politicians need to tackle Guyana’s racial divide head-on.” It is certainly encouraging that there is this recognition, as belated as it is. I say this, because the racial divide, which I have been emphasizing from the loneliness of the wilderness, is too far gone to be remedied at this late stage. I warn that my position(s) that follow may be found scorching and disturbing.

It is a divide, and it is vast to the point of being largely unbridgeable now or in the near future. Among political groups, citizens, sometimes even in the many and varied houses of worship, there is not even the contemplation, for there are not even the slightest stirrings of interest. The new people have made some polite sounds, but nobody is listening, most do not care. It is how set we are in our racial camps, our racial opportunism, our racial visions, and our racial objectives for racial supremacy. I am not fooled by the ethnic composition of any group, though I am inclined to give the little people the benefit of the doubt; the two big ones get no such consideration or courtesy.

I have said repeatedly that our biggest challenge and problem is not the constitution, or oil ethics, or the economy, as vitally important as each and all of those are. I have insisted publicly that our racial issue is not merely a severe problem but rises to the level of existential crisis. Everybody had a good laugh at my representations. I persevere. As one younger fellow (now part of the elections contest) was frank enough to share with me last year: that is not going to gain any favored reaction or allowed to establish traction, since to visit and confront the racial divide is the equivalent of giving up the electoral trump card. I agree, but am unwilling to let it go, trump card or no trump card, for in the racial abyss lies the seeds of our self-destruction.

It is so, when our political leadership and racial saints (the two are inseparable) are proud to say I am for my race and I shall brook no appeal to be otherwise, thus that is that, and they have legions of followers, who are of the same irreversible mindset, which only embodies and promises more of the same deformities that have dogged and imperiled our plural national existence.

Our leadership cohorts, being the savvy hustling racial opportunists that they are, are quick to shelter under the lip service of empty and meaningless racial platitudes about harmony and unity. And I found a billion-barrel oil patch right here in the middle of Georgetown. Seven hundred and fifty thousand Guyanese may be comforted by those lies and the lying liars who tell them. Count me out, please.

So now here it is that this is February (less than a month before indications of the stormiest of elections coming) development about racial divide and addressing it head-on. I will try to be kind: it is well-received and embraced, but it is too damn late. This should have been the uppermost priority in our manifestoes, campaigns, planks, conversations, debates, and the whole apparatus and outlook of elections from the inception. But it wasn’t. In effect, what has happened is our politics and political leaders, with rare exception, have cultivated the same raw and ready passions for their narrow and selfish interests. That would be centered around winning, winning at all costs and by means, and that means the race card, no matter how subdued, regardless of how muted it has been in the public spheres.

The call is for the divide to be met head-on. Again, I have a problem, several of them, in fact. The racial environment is too tense and taut with expectations, emotions, and suspicions for it to abruptly change directions, for it to be swayed to be different. The poisons run deep, the doses, as applied by political operators, add to the lethality. Because matters are so tight and torrid, there is no space, no allowance, for either political group (or their political adherents) to take evasive action, to think of remedial correctives. Race and racial voting is what has been sold forever here; to reverse direction would now be more than revolutionary; it would be an unbearable shock to the communal, tribal, and national system. Catastrophic is the word. Because when the head-on approach called for today has been scorned and dismissed before, like gruesome accidents, the horrendous head-on results with the usual traumatic results. We pretend at making merry through our pain and plight and what we know is just about predictable. There are only the pieces left to be probed and picked up, perhaps pinched and pierced in the postmortems that follow. The signs and portents are most unpromising.

I have said before that between now and March 2nd is going to be problematic. But I immovably believe that the real test, the emerging racial crises would be in the long, unending aftermath. I do not foresee how it can be otherwise, when from day one, there was and still is controversy over bloated lists and citizenship and the rest. The stage is set for sharp racial acrimonies and that is the head-on that is almost guaranteed.

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