October 5, 1992, was an historic day for Guyana – the day when democracy returned in free and fair elections for the first time in twenty-four years. It is commemorated only by the PPP but in a way that aids its own credentials and whatever current political disputes it is engaged in. It would have marked a maturing of Guyana’s political leadership if the PNCR could have also noted the importance of October 5 and claim ownership of the role it played in restoring democracy. Since the PNCR would have had to confront a part of its past to do so, this period of its and Guyana’s history, like several others, for which it shares some credit, remain unaddressed. Guyana will have to ascend to a higher level of statesmanship for both of our main political parties to put the events of that now historic period in full perspective without the politically antagonistic framework in which it is now remembered.
By the time October 5, 1992, came along, both the world and the PNCR had changed. The Cold War had ended and, quite independently, the PNCR had transitioned dramatically from a party that espoused Marxist socialism, close relations with socialist countries and state ownership of the means of production, to a party which identified itself in completely opposite terms. The PPP came to accept these changes in 1992.
The above headline to this article was borrowed from yesterday’s Guyana Chronicle, which reported on an assessment conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). While observers of the Guyana political scene did not need a foreign agency to confirm what some have been saying for some time, the fact that the USAID has made the same observation, and proposes solutions, lends credibility to the conclusions that Guyanese themselves have made.
Guyana’s post-Independence history is one of political domination by the PNC or the PPP. Prior to Independence, and after forms of self-government were conceded by the British, the PPP dominated the political space. Both political intrigue and violence were deployed to wrest political control from the PPP. By defining the form of governance that has emerged in Guyana as one-party rule, USAID has given credibility to the political analysis that has emerged and, therefore, the need for reform.
The National Population and Housing Census was conducted in 2012. Published in 2014, it showed a decrease in the population from 751,223 in 2002 to 746,955 in 2012. The long awaited ethnic census in Compendium Two was released last week. It makes for interesting, but not surprising, reading.
The Indian population has declined from 326,277 or 43.4% in 2002 to 297,493 or 39.8% in 2012. The African population has declined from 227,062 or 30.2% in 2002 to 218,483 or 29.2% in 2012. The Amerindian population increased from 66,675 or 9.1% in 2002 to 78,492 or 10.5% in 2012. The Mixed population increased from 125,727 or 16.7% in 2002 to 148,532 or 19.9% in 2012.
The report of the Steering Committee on Constitutional Reform, appointed (SCCR) by the Government and headed by Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, was handed over to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo in April. It is now before Cabinet for a decision as to the way forward.
President Granger, responding to a question on the television programme, Public Interest said, as reported in SN on June 20: “I don’t want a boardroom constitutional reform. I want a public discussion. I want people in their communities to meet and express their views. I don’t want a group of people sitting in a room saying what must be done.” The President went on at length in this vein.
Bryan Hunt has proven that you don’t have to dress like a diplomat to excel at being one. During the period that he has been here, particularly over the fourteen months that he performed the functions of the head of the US Mission, his steady and deft hand has helped to monitor both Guyana’s general and local government elections and stabilize relations with Guyana after accusations by the previous Government against Ambassador Brent Hardt of interfering in Guyana’s internal affairs. Of course, the change in Government has helped.
In one of my areas of interest, the Guyana-Venezuela Border Controversy, the US Government has for the first time expressed support for the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award which settled the boundaries between British Guiana and Venezuela. Mr. Hunt will never be able to speak about what he did, along with Ambassador Holloway, to persuade their Government to encourage this vastly important development for Guyana, and I don’t know what it was that they urged, but it has to be assumed that he had an important input. Up to a mere few months before the declaration the US would go no further than urging the parties to settle the matter peacefully.