October 5, 1992 is a work in progress
On the 27th anniversary of the historic October 5, 1992 elections, PPP stalwart Clement Rohee reflects on the significance of the date and what it means today.
Below is Mr Rohee’s reflection:
October 5, 2019, will mark twenty-seven years since the first free and fair elections in a post-independent Guyana.
This missive is not intended to recite nor assess the achievements or non-achievements of successive PPP/C governments during their twenty-three years in office, on the contrary, the objective here is merely to consider the significance of October 5, 1992, and the enduring economic, social and political consequences that flowed therefrom, leaving in its trail a lasting but living legacy that continues to impact Guyanese people and politics.
October 5, 1992, came forty-five years after Cheddi Jagan was declared the winner of the Central Demerara Constituency in the 1947 General Elections and twenty-eight years after being forced out of office following the elections in 1964.
Being in the political wilderness for twenty-eight years was the water and the soil that helped germinate October 5, 1992.
That germination occurred in an atmosphere where the living standards of the Guyanese people had reached unbearable and unacceptable proportions.
Hundreds of Guyanese, associated with, or suspected to be members or supporters of the political opposition were victimized, discriminated against, harassed and beaten up by PNC thugs.
Many suffered trumped-up charges, wrongful detention, imprisonment and deprivation of their fundamental rights.
Some were shot and killed.
The press was muzzled.
Hundreds of thousands of Guyanese fled their homeland to seek their fortunes in other lands.
And Afro-Guyanese, who had been so badly treated and let down by their own, had reached a stage where they no
longer had faith nor confidence in the leadership of the party they supported.
October 5, 1992, therefore, was birthed from within a society that was pregnant with change. It was only a matter of time and the application of appropriate strategy and tactics that were necessary to make the political change, so urgently needed.
A fundamental antecedent of October 5, was the formation of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) and its forerunner the Committee for Defence of Democracy (CDD)which reflected the unity and solidarity of the opposition political parties of which the WPA, the DLM and the PPP/C were the principal movers and shakers.
October 5 reaffirmed the asseveration that coalition politics, of varying hues and shades, can play a dynamic if not transformative role in Guyanese politics. A tour d’horizon of contemporary Guyanese political history, beginning with the formation of the PPP sixty-nine years ago attests to this fact.
October 5, 1992, signalled the coming of fundamental changes combined with elements of continuity that were destined to have a profound and lasting impact on Guyanese society.
In his speech at the swearing-in ceremony at State House on October 9, 1992, Cheddi Jagan said:
“We went to the elections with the slogan: Time for Change: Time to Rebuild.” We have attained the first objective of a change of government
Now, all of us together, whatever our party, political affiliation, whatever our race or ethnicity, whatever our creed, must put our shoulders to the wheel.”
Referring to what could be termed an element of continuity Jagan declared:
“…I hope to develop a constructive relationship with Mr Desmond Hoyte and the leadership of all parties in order to deepen our democratic process, and accelerate our economic development.”
In this regard,of great significance was the fact that the architects of October 5, we’re realistic enough to recognize that while some efforts at economic transformation had been initiated by the Hoyte administration, however, as head of a new PPP/C administration, Jagan wanted to “accelerate development and rebuild the country,” at the same time, he wanted a “constructive relationship” with former President Hoyte.
‘Constructive Relationship’ eventually evolved to become ‘ Constructive Engagement, as the ubiquitous influence of October 5 penetrated the complexities of governance in an ethnically divided society.
Thus, October 5, recognizing the realities facing the new government, had no choice but to reconcile itself with those realities, uncomfortable as they were, until it had garnered enough support, at home and abroad to energetically implement its own socio-economic policies, based on debt relief, eradication of poverty and human development.
Further, the significance of October 5, was reflected in the fact that not since the late 1960’s, did Guyana experience such an active role by the international community in facilitating conflict resolution, overseeing the electoral process and in assisting to usher in a new era for Guyana.
October 5, laid the foundation for free and fair elections in Guyana beginning from 1992 and onwards, enabling the PPP/C to win five successive governments.
It gave the PPP/C the opportunity for five of its leaders to occupy the seat of the presidency albeit for varying periods of tenure.
A significant aspect of October 5 to be noted is that a whole new generation of Guyanese grew up to adulthood knowing nothing else but the PPP/C and what it did for the country and people.
Small wonder why today many hark back to how they prospered in those days.
It is because of October 5, and its birthing of free and fair elections in an open and democratic society that the Guyanese people are now free to choose a party of their choice to administer the affairs of the country.
October 5, 1992 created a democratic environment allowing political parties to openly and freely compete with each other to occupy the seat of government.
Ironically, it was because of the democratic openings that the PPP/C lost and the APNU+ AFC won the regional and general elections in 2015
October 5 was the harbinger that ushered in constitutional reform resulting in major changes in our electoral and parliamentary systems, State institutional arrangements and our system of governance in general. It was October 5 that brought brought in its wake Presidential limits.
But October 5, had its own birth pangs.
It became a peculiar midwife for controversial elections,it saw challenges to governance and law enforcement, the falling out of erstwhile PCD partners and the inclusion of others, charges of marginalization, racial and ethnic discrimination, strikes and demonstrations, allegations of corruption, the unfulfilled narrative of ‘shared and/or inclusive governance,’ the fading away of ‘winner does not take all’ politics, pushing parliament into uncharted waters, and to this day, constitutional, judicial and electoral challenges.
October 5 brought in its wake convulsions and changes at the leadership levels of the two dominant political parties. Longstanding leaders from the PPP/C broke away and formed their own political parties with some eventually joining up the fledgling APNU+AFC to become top office holders in a coalition government.
The latters’ assumption to the coveted positions would not have been possible had it not been for the vicissitudes of October 5 and its consequential ramifications.
Looked at through the prism of October 5, the PNC though clothed in the garb of the APNU could not escape the wrath of karma when one of their own turned on his erstwhile benefactors resulting in the coalition to which he belonged being rocked to the core with passage of a No Confidence Motion forcing a frenetic resort to the courts in a desperate attempt to hold on to office.
Whatever exists today, be it in the realm of politics, our economic and financial architecture, in our social and physical infrastructure, in our law enforcement architecture, or in the administration of justice, they are all like tributaries of one river we can safely call October 5.
As October 5 recedes with every passing year, the nation continues with its search for solutions to numerous complex and unanswered questions.
The passage of time notwithstanding, the reverberations of October 5, continue to manifest themselves in so many different ways twenty-seven years after it heralded the ‘Dawn of a New Era.’
October 5,1992 should be viewed as a year and date not just to be commemorated nor to be romanticized, it must be viewed as a work in progress by the people of Guyana who, like
Sisyphus, continues with the arduous task of changing,rebuilding and transforming for the better not the worst.