Special Feature by Dr. Festus L. Brotherson, Jr.

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Guyana: Finding and Fixing Contradictions
in Early Post-Elections Period

Posted September 25th. 2006

The zeal Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo exhibits for his job is genuine. This is uplifting news for the state and society as the president, fresh from victory in the August 28, 2006 general elections, faces complex challenges in development pursuits. There he was two weeks ago, in Singapore, chairing the 2006 Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, the leading economic globalization forums wherein he continues to steer Guyana's way some life enhancing programs/actions through credits, debt reduction, debt forgiveness, etc. Mr. Jagdeo's leadership agenda is awe-inspiring, the tasks and objectives upon it foreboding for anyone else with less stamina for effective crisis management.

But major missteps are occurring and the president is being unfairly blamed for all of them. To be sure, some culpability is clear but most of the emerging problems are the result of an already set, unyielding state and societal environment over which Mr. Jagdeo and his PPP/C have little control. Moreover, the rush to harsh judgment in opposition quarters (e.g., re the Constitution, "the government is illegal, its actions are all illegal") is unhelpful to finding solutions urgently. Like the president, leaders here appear guilty of ignoring their own voluntary pledges of cooperation in the post-election period. But they too are victims of the same newly developing reality, the intricacies of which they do not seem to grasp fully.

In his Cabinet-making to support policy objectives, Mr. Jagdeo combined an odd assemblage of unproductive loyalists with inexperienced newcomers - an approach to team building and sustenance not far removed from that of his late opposition predecessor. Thus did the president showcase uninspired carpentry, and thus will his cabinet members have to learn quickly on the job if they are to deliver on his promises and on popular expectations involving at least those three contentious issue areas we explored in past weeks, viz.: safe environment; Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC); and wider, more reconciliatory outreaches.

Even before that, a main hurdle that demands clearance for more political wiggle room in an already tight workspace is the leadership environment itself, which upon careful analysis is dominated, energized by the unforgiving performance imperatives of globalization and new legally binding Constitutional guidelines. The pressures here were already present in the run up to the elections. In general, using crime control as one example, they concern producing wide, sustainable, beneficial results immediately for the majority of citizens. Everywhere, these pressures are more intense by dint of happenstance, and the pulse of demands beats unpredictably because the groundswell of globalized-informed competitive workings continue to turn international political economy upside down, shrink time and space for human reflection and better contemplated responses, tending the entire system towards instability. Bluntly put, traditional modus operandi simply no longer work.

Next, more ominously, contradictions between the stated intentions of different and similar executives have quickened. Put another way, not only does the basic content of politics remain contradictory in the environment, but also the impact of globalization deepens and widens those contradictions, and the variables that spawn results move unabatedly, inexorably in ways beyond leadership capacities to tame and control them. They compromise delivery on goals. To repeat for emphasis, the ordinary immanent personal characteristics of leaders and the various ideologies they/we use as justification for actions no longer produce desired results.

Most importantly, this stalemate has several consequences. It molds and remolds the processes of political endeavors. It helps shape and direct the flow of political activities. It contributes to more rushed judgments of merit and demerit about issues to be tackled and decisions to be made and implemented.

From research, it is this piled-on panoply of specious barren conceptual additives that helps generate contradictions, explain narrow give and take of ongoing behavior, and precipitate crisis in the all-important third issue area -- officialdom demonstrating the new code of outreach conduct in the hunt for good, stable governance. If not, how else can we explain the rise of one particularly strange contradiction that has irked many influential people? That contradiction is President Jagdeo's stubborn retention of Mr. Bernard Kerik to advise on reforms of the Guyana Police Force despite loud protests this has caused in civil society and among opposition political parties? Mr. Kerik is the former New York Police Commissioner who has many moral failings and faces uphill challenges in overcoming them. In the meantime, by presidential dictate, Guyana is stuck with an unfit advisor on moral reforms for its corrupt police force; an advisor who is himself the subject of aggressive investigation by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on questions that bear directly on morality!

Let us continue refocus on the President's immediate post-election call for more dialogue of cooperation with opposers in policy development areas. Guyana's ambassador to the USA, Mr. Bayney Karran, has been forceful and well received in promoting this new approach to governance. But many of Mr. Jagdeo's other key colleagues speak contrarily and with surprising bellicosity on the subject. Evidence, for example, perplexingly hostile comments by one extremely high profile executive who reacted with gleeful dismissiveness to the Constitutional crisis building around the convening of the National Assembly on September 28! That burgeoning crisis requires urgent cooperative outreach. Indeed, although this matter is THE major mushrooming one of political disconnect in national politics, even the President's own behavior on the subject have sometimes not signaled any desire for cooperation with foes. Matters have deteriorated to the point where ruling and opposition camps have resumed intense wailings and accusatory protestations, in and out of courts of law, that were common prior to the election of 2006.

Succinctly put, the crisis concerns the need for Parliament to reconvene while facing the impossibility of doing so. It is about the dilemma of state power being at once necessary while at the same time being impossible to exercise while the authority of state -- the great Leviathan -- is still being created and preened.

In sum, the matters of Kerik and the Guyana Constitution highlight the rise and spread of contradictions, and the need for them to be tackled by cooperative meetings among the political parties. Success here will demand all of President Jagdeo's leadership skills, more cooperation and less opportunist jawboning in the opposition and government camps.


Dr. Brotherson is a Guyanese professor of political science and corporate risk-assessment consultant who resides in the USA.