Tell us what it's going to take for you to return to Guyana.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Alliance cannot confine itself to parliamentary politics and must be activist

The writer somewhat reflects my sentiment that not only does the AFC need to pull itself together, but they also need to be activist in nature and get in front of the issues outside of parliament as well.

They can potentially squander their political capital if they don't build on their early momentum NOW. I am disappointed in some of their earlier actions, but they may be all we have to deal with, maybe, if we are to break the stasis we have now.

I was told that mainly the young blacks voted for the AFC. I hope that we don't have a young Black party alongside a young Indian party. That is a distinct possibility that I hope they are aware of.


The Alliance cannot confine itself to parliamentary politics and must be activist
Saturday, October 20th 2007

Dear Editor,

My last submission to Stabroek News, captioned 'PNC should develop a strategy to attract disaffected Indian Guyanese,' (07.10.07) drew the attention of the Alliance For Change Member of Parliament Ms. Sheila Holder in a letter captioned, "Ms. Holder replies to Dennis Wiggins" (KN) and the attention of Mr. Terrence Duncan in a letter captioned 'The Alliance is expected to do its job in Parliament,' (07.10.12) respectively. Both responses have disagreed with my characterization of the AFC.

I dealt briefly with what I perceive to be the AFC's preference for parliamentary politics which I characterized as "contenting itself with operating within largely an ineffective and inadequate parliamentary system thus the AFC itself has become ineffective." This critique of the AFC is not new and while it is natural for the leadership and supporters of the AFC to defend the party against such characterization, the question should be asked whether the AFC, as the third force it is purported to be, is as active as it should be in an emerging authoritarian climate in Guyana. After all the AFC is supposed to be a change agent in the society. This perceived lack of activism has kept the AFC which had made tremendous gains in the 2006 general elections from occupying the political space, and therefore it is being left out of the political discourse.

Although it is expected that a political party elected to parliament will use that forum to represent its constituents, in Guyana, the severely partisan political culture of attending to parliamentary affairs makes the opposition virtually impotent. This partisan culture makes parliamentary practice and procedures extremely handicapped. Hence, in the absence of the full implementation of the Michael Davies commission's recommendation for parliamentary reform, parliament remains an inadequate forum for progressive participation. In addition, the recently passed "recall legislation bill" in parliament that Ms. Holder alluded to is further evidence of the efforts and lengths to which the two major political parties will go to curtail the independence of the members of parliament. So while it is important to use parliamentary practice as the constitutional provision for constituency representation, the AFC has to realize that it cannot only confine itself to a parliamentary form of representation and expect to be the change agent it necessarily should be. Notwithstanding, the freedom of information bill being pushed by the AFC is an important piece of legislation and the party should be commended. The challenge is getting the political bureaucracy to comply if the bill is passed.

So it is this challenge that exists in our political culture and system that has imbued in it the dictatorship of the majority party, which makes extra-parliamentary activism a necessary need. The notion that the AFC has become ineffective after it made tremendous gains in the last elections relates to the perception that the AFC is not organizing, not being vocal on major issues and is not involved in any struggle, multiracial or otherwise.

While the organization that is named AFC is indeed young, the leadership cadre that makes up the Alliance For Change has been involved in politics for a considerable period of time and should be very knowledgeable about the political landscape. This means that the AFC which presents itself as a progressive force with progressive ideas should be an organization ready to take the lead on major issues in a non progressive political sphere. The idea here is that the AFC cannot remain dormant until 2011. The urgency of the situation requires leadership and the AFC with its multiracial platform may be best positioned to provide that leadership.

The question should be asked, can the AFC as a third party operating in a two party traditional political system win the 2011 elections? I believe this is a fair question given that this party after a mere two months of formation won possibly six seats in the last elections, a feat never before accomplished in the history of third party candidacy in Guyana. The PPP/C is very vulnerable. Remember, though PPP/C won 51 percent of those who went to the polls, it won with only 37 percent of the registered voters. PNCR-1G seems to be disorganized on every major issue, is trapped in minority ethnic based politics and is faced with a serious leadership crisis. Guyanese are desperately looking for change after forty years of colossal political failure on an aggregate level. Therefore the AFC has to be willing to take advantage of the aperture in the two-party political system. But this cannot be done if the AFC confines itself to Parliamentary politics alone. The AFC has to be an activist party.

So I am arguing that the political space exists for the AFC to engage in transformational political activism. Such activism requires political stewardship, community organizing and political struggle. But the question on many people's minds is, is the AFC too much of a middle class party to engage in grass roots organizing. Can the lawyers at the helm of the party find the time that is required to engage poor people on street corners, under bottom houses, in community centers, etc, on serious issues that affect their lives. More importantly can the AFC convince Guyanese that they are the party of the future? Transformational activism is a continuous process. It requires a well organized apparatus for educating the masses.

In Guyana, it is my opinion that part of that apparatus exists in youth activism. More than any segment of the population, Guyanese youth need guidance and leadership. They need to be involved; they need a sense of belonging. For too long the youth of Guyana have been neglected by the political system. Any political party willing to honestly engage this voting anomaly with the highest case of apathy, entropy and inertia, will have a tremendous advantage. For too long political parties have been paying lip service to the concerns of our young people. Moreover, young people are desperately looking for a new political culture; but the question remains who will organize them. Who will make them the apparatus for change? Does the AFC have a comprehensive program for Generation X in Guyana? The challenge is to get them to the polls. The idea is to organize them, train them and get them involved in volunteer activities. An energized youth movement is a formidable force in any political movement. Young people are looking for the promise of hope, the promise of prosperity, the promise of a better Guyana?

May I conclude by assuring Mr. Duncan that the only intentions I will betray is my fervent campaign for a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous Guyana for all Guyanese.

Yours faithfully,

Dennis Wiggins

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