A STRANGE political development took place two days ago in Guyana—where strange political occurrences have become the norm.
The Caricom Secretariat released to the media on Monday a statement explaining that following "the unfortunate incidents surrounding the protests at Linden on July 18, 2012, which led to the deaths of three citizens of Guyana, the Secretariat has been engaged with the government of Guyana on a continuous basis…." And further, that at the request of the Guyana government Caricom "has recommended three distinguished Community nationals to serve on a Commission of Inquiry which is expected to enquire into and report on matters related to the events of that day…"
The three commissioners are: Lensley Wolfe (a former chief justice of Jamaica and current chairman of its Police Public Complaints Authority); Jamaican KD Knight SC, a former PNP minister) and Dana Seetahal SC, a former independent senator in T&T.
So far, so good. Hours later on that same day, a meeting of representatives of the government, parliamentary opposition and the Region 10 Council (which includes Linden), was aborted.
The intention of that meeting was to have a signing of the accord for ending the month-long Linden crisis and pave the way for the work of the Commission of Inquiry to begin. So what happened?
The real reason perhaps resides in the ongoing competitive politics between the two opposition parties—the People's National Congress (PNC) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) which operate as partners under APNU (A Partnership for National Unity)—for political support in Linden, which had been viewed as a traditional stronghold of the PNC up to last November's general election.
There have been variations in public political posturings between APNU's leadership and the Region 10 Council chairman on terms for resolving the crisis which was triggered by the killing of three protesters on July 18—linked to police shootings — and subsequent acts of arson and other criminal activities that have resulted in millions of dollars in losses and with the town's future now seriously jeopardised.
Significantly absent from last Friday's final meeting before the planned Monday signing was any representative of APNU's minority opposition partner, AFC.
That would not have come as surprise to those monitoring the behaviour of AFC leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, a defector from the governing PPP.
He had earlier admitted to involvement in "mobilisation" of protests by Lindeners against the government's proposed phased hike in the electricity tariff.
That was the core issue and it was still being used to literally fan flames even after the government had put the tariff hike on hold and agreed to a review of the issues in Linden, for which the terms of reference and personnel for a special technical committee had been agreed.
However, as recently as August 10, Mr Ramjattan had told the local media of his party's rejection of any inclusion in the terms of reference for the independent probe into the killings of the three demonstrators about who "may have organised, mobilised or promote the protest on July 18…"
The harsh reality is that it is difficult to separate the tragedy of three deaths and the injuries suffered by at least a dozen protesters from the incidents of July 18 when the police and protesters clashed on a blocked bridge linking the communities of Wismar and Linden.
According to the sophistry of the AFC's Leader, "even if Ramjattan went up there (in Linden) and organised the thing (the 'thing' being the protest) what's wrong with that. It is the exercise of a constitutional right".
What is most disturbing for Guyana's future political stability and social/economic advancement is not that lawyer/politician Ramjattan could be so insensitive to the problems affecting Lindeners. Rather, it is that his self-serving platitudes could have succeeded in influencing the main opposition APNU—and by extension the PNC—into backing away from Monday's signing of the terms of reference for the inquiry.
Consequently, there was the amusing scenario on Monday of the opposition welcoming the announcement of the three commissioners, while still failing to reach consensus with the government on the Commission's terms of reference.
As one well-known lawyer reacted when we spoke yesterday about this development, "you simply cannot discuss text without context." Fair enough.
But the commissioners for the probe may perhaps need to reflect on the implications of the sort of "poppycock politics" in Guyana far more than Lindeners.
Currently it is manifest in the ongoing bartering between two opposition parties that together control a majority of one seat in the 65-member parliament. The bartering involves more than painful political somersaults and is quite costly in its social and economic consequences for more than the bauxite mining town of Linden.