Did make submissions on democracy in a multiethnic society during ministerial tenure
Posted By Stabroek staff On June 18, 2009 @ 5:02 am In Letters | 9 Comments
In his contribution, ‘Guyana can do better in the longer term than living off the IMF/WB welfare system’ (SN 9.6.09), Emile Mervin requested that I comment on a few issues which apparently arose from his reading of my presentation ‘If our leaders are to be blamed…’ (SN 8.6.09). Space will not allow me to deal with all issues today but in time I will no doubt comment on most of them. Responding to my contention that the very nature of multiethnic societies serves as a humbug to development, he enquired if I “ever advocated recommendations for making the conditions favourable during [my] tenure as a cabinet minister in the PPP/Civic administration from 1992 until January this year, and what these might look like if [I would] care to share.”
What follows is one of a few contributions I made in 2002, which was intended for internal circulation but was obtained and at the time, reported on by some sections of the media. Please note that I lay no claim to originality and my thoughts may have evolved somewhat since 2002. Nonetheless, I believe that the general thrust of the paper is still relevant so I present it here in a similar form, the latter of which was dictated by the fact that busy people did/do not, usually, have the time to read lengthy documents.
“Establishing Normal Politics in Guyana
For more than half a century the political process in Guyana has operated sub-optimally.
The period to 1964 was wasted in a geopolitical confrontation which removed the PPP from government.
1964 to 1992 saw the establishment of a more or less dictatorial regime.
1992 to date has seen a governance mechanism that a significant number of citizens view with suspicion but see as irremovable.
For at least half a century normal politics has not existed in Guyana.
“The Meaning of Normal Politics
Normal politics exists where political interplay takes place according to the rules and traditions of established democracies and where political parties win and hold power without reference to existing fractures in the society.
It requires, inter alia, respect for the rule of law, open multi-party elections and freedom of expression and assembly.
However, very importantly, normal politics does not exist where (for whatever reason) political competition is absent.
Political competition only exists where it is perceived that the incumbent can be defeated.
As such, although events since the PPP/C’s victory in 1992 have improved democratic participation, in a sense, the PPP/C is in a similar position to that of the pre-1992 PNC and vice versa. For geopolitical reasons the PNC was allowed to maintain a dictatorial grip on power. Largely for ethnic reasons, the PPP/C is view as being permanently in office.
Please note that in terms of the reaction to perceived political illegitimacies, partisan political actions have also not been dissimilar.
Depending upon its severity, abnormality detracts from democracy. At its most severe it is dictatorship.
“Some Consequences of Abnormal Politics
Without normal politics, development will be difficult in societies purporting to be democracies.
Government in these conditions operates like a business that does not have to make a profit: there is no seminal check on its competence and/or insensitivity; i.e. no bottom line and furious shareholders. This will ultimately lead to underdevelopment/liquidation.
Depending upon its severity, abnormal politics leads to calls for various forms of executive power sharing and to subversive political behaviour.
The vast majority of PNC/ R leaders and members believe that the present democratic process is abnormal.
This has given rise to an accommodation in the PNC/R between those who seek power sharing and the few who believe in normal politics.
The majority believes that it is only by various forms of disruption that they can influence the PPP/C towards some form of power sharing.
This periodically results in violence but has, inevitably, led to a permanent state of tension in the society.
By my definition, power sharing is the institutionalization of abnormality to create a workable political system.
Most PPP/C supporters believe that the immediate motive of the PNC/R is to take political power either by disruptive measures or/and by causing economic stagnation and decline.
The latter view fails to grasp the current national and geopolitical reality of democracy.
It also fails to appreciate the overwhelming evidence that political competition is as fierce at any level of development. Indeed, poverty is conservative!! Whether the PNC/R recognizes it or not, poor conditions put it at a disadvantage.
Abnormal politics is unacceptable and unworkable.
“The Establishment of Normal Politics
“If normal politics is to be established in Guyana, we must radically reassess our view of the political process. We must:
Be prepared to help establish and work a political system with a higher possibility of our losing government. (The PNC/R will also need to creatively reform its structure and may then find it easier to reform its behaviour).
Allow the vast majority of PNC/R members/supporters to believe that we can lose government through the normal democratic process.
Significantly increase parliamentary status to give individual opposition members a stake in the process by providing better emoluments, funds for constituent work, better protocol status and access to public media, etc.
Act visibly fairly. Justice must be seen to be done. Establish and operationalise arrangements such as the Race Relations Commission and other tie-breaking mechanisms.
Even if frustrating, stick scrupulously to the rule of law.
“The establishment of a workable political system is critical to our development. In my view, power sharing is the less desirable alternative at this stage. However, if, as a result of negligence or impracticability, normal politics is not urgently established power sharing remains an alternative. To establish normal politics requires a paradigmatic shift in our political thinking. It will not be easy to convince persons seasoned in the extant political culture of the necessity for change. There will be a tendency to want to adopt some but not all of the above measures. This is fine once we understand that success depends upon our willingness to create a truly competitive political environment.”
Henry B Jeffrey
9 Comments (Open | Close)
9 Comments To "Did make submissions on democracy in a multiethnic society during ministerial tenure"
#1 Comment By cohore On June 18, 2009 @ 7:36 am
Here goes Henry the opportunist with his academic gobbledygook again! Henry what is your position on the PPP’s criminality viz a viz its connection to Roger Khan and other drugh lords? It’s alleged connection to death squads and the murder of over 400 humans? What are your thoughts on the rampant corruption and squandering of taxpayers money in the CLICO, NIS and NBS fiascoes? Henry, your opportunism is palpable but we have had enough of you.
#2 Comment By mBlair On June 18, 2009 @ 10:02 am
Outside of the ring, it is easy to see the match; and hindsight is 20/20. Nevertheless, I rather like the recommendations on the the establishment of normal politics.
“… radically reassess the political process by:
(1) helping to establish and work a political system with a higher possibility of losing government [to a similarly reformed minority];
(2) allowing the vast majority of [minority] members/supporters to believe that [power can be lost] through the normal democratic process;
(3) significantly increasing parliamentary status to give individual [minority] members a stake in the process by providing better emoluments, funds for constituent work, better protocol status and access to public media, etc;
(4) acting visibly fairly [as] justice must be seen to be done;
(5) establishing arrangements such as the Race Relations Commission and other tie-breaking mechanisms; and
(6) even if frustrating, sticking scrupulously to the rule of law.”
Three questions present themselves. How many of the six recommendations have been evidently accomplished? Specifically how can the rest be; and what is the evidence showing the lack thereof?
#3 Comment By Evan Thomas On June 18, 2009 @ 10:59 am
I think he as admitted that the government he was a part of did practice abnorman politics of which the issues you likted are the results.
#4 Comment By Brandon Samaroo (What has the PPP done for us in 17 years?) On June 18, 2009 @ 11:34 am
Jeffrey answer the question emile posed what have you done personally to influence the PPP to embrace democracy?
Why has the PPP embraced all the tools of the Burnhame dictatorship and not revoked one since taking power?
Tell us man, stop wid dese essays spit the truth out.
#5 Comment By B. Thomas On June 18, 2009 @ 12:58 pm
cohore you are so right, Henry starts off his essay, being very passive towards the PPP (never bite the hand that feeds you) and condeming the PNC’s “1964 to 1992 saw the establishment of a more or less dictatorial regime’ but the PPP’s “1992 to date has seen a governance mechanism that a significant number of citizens view with suspicion but see as irremovable” come on Henry, call a spade a spade. That a significant number of citezens see as corrupt, racial, incompentent, visionless and with no respect to the rule of law and democratic institutions. He then suggests that the PPP fool the population and the PNC by allowing them to believe they can win (don’t give them anything, but let them think you are, bribe their representatives with a little money and status. Even though I support these measures to ensure a workable system, I beleve his motives are not sincere) Henry then gets bold and let the cat out the bag, he admolishes the PPP to “Act visibly fairly” and “Even if frustrating, stick scrupulously to the rule of law”, Which the PPP has never done.
#6 Comment By Georgie On June 18, 2009 @ 1:15 pm
Cochore ! Tough questions for Mr. Jeffrey. I bet he will sidestep them.
#7 Comment By Cochore On June 18, 2009 @ 2:54 pm
Hey dude, nice try but lik ya trying fuh teff mah good name hey smarty or wha… ah gan gaf fuh ask fuh a lil royalty fuh dah bannas. The spelling and all is cool and cute but I don’t want folks to think that it’s me when it might be you or vice versa.
Somehow, I got a sneaking suspicion that this is the handy works of Tannanssee the 3lb Conundrum. Only the other day he was trying to tell me that the name Cochore, actually means Co-thief in one of the Hindu dialects.
Anyway Cohore my friend, in terms of the pure content of your post here, I stand shoulder to shoulder with you about this Henry Jeffrey dude. Just imagine Bannas, he only finally realize that most ideologues are inflexible creatures (ya gat to first believe without questioning) regardless of the discipline of their expertise.
Henry Jeffrey’s problem is that he incrementally grew tired of drinking from the chalice of outdated and irrelevant beliefs and economic theories for nation building. This is 2009 where the world has changed to a global economy, leaving the PPP ideologues with their 30’s and 40’s failed theories and thinking.
#8 Comment By tkhemraj On June 18, 2009 @ 4:47 pm
This is such a circuitous and frustrating essay Jeffrey. He pointed out the problem which is the ethnic nature of politics yet he wobbles on the need for power sharing. Surely Jeffrey knows about the work of Arend Lijphart and Timothy Sisk on the type of governance model needed in an ethnically bi-communal society as Guyana. Guyana has a highly filtered democracy in which 15 individuals, in the name of democratic centralism, selects the people who will be President and Members of Parliament. These individuals are then presented to the electorate and one ethnic group, with a numerical majority, succeeds in picking the filtered list. From the party constitution that espouses democratic centralism these selected individuals then move to the national level armed with the tinkered 1980 Burnham constitution. That’s the problem and it cannot continue forever!
#9 Comment By WRodney On June 18, 2009 @ 7:18 pm
Well the PPP having a BALL with Burnham paper, No need for a new
Constitution!!! No need for a new power structure, things just PEACHY !!!!
Article printed from Stabroek News: http://www.stabroeknews.com
URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/letters/06/18/48974/