Revisiting Walter Rodney: The Absurdity of Guyanese Politics

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A few days ago I came across a recently uploaded speech by Walter Rodney. It was one which I had never heard before, but which I found very relevant to the present state of African and Caribbean politics. One section that I found particularly relevant is when Rodney spoke about the comedy and the tragedy found in African and Caribbean politics. This is a point that I’ve seen Rodney make before in his writings, but in this speech he really elaborates on just how absurd politics in Africa and the Caribbean can get.

See the 44 minute mark

One can understand Walter Rodney’s point by looking no further than his homeland of Guyana, where general elections were held since March 2 of this year. Up to now there has been no declared winner of this election, more than two months later. The election has also been marred by accusations on fraud. Of the elections in Guyana, Bruce Golding stated: “I have never seen a more transparent effort to alter the results of an election.” Golding was the former Jamaican Prime Minister, who resigned in disgrace over his handling of the extradition of a Jamaican drug kingpin.

Despite the issues surrounding the election, the government was moving to swear in David Granger, who is currently the incumbent president. This prompted the opposition to move for an injunction to prevent the president from swearing in and to prevent an official declaration of the results without a recount. Guyana is currently undergoing the recount process and a team has been sent by CARICOM to oversee this process.

This is just the latest political fiasco in Guyana. In 2018, the government of Guyana was defeated in a vote of no confidence, with 33 votes in favor of the motion out of the 65 seat parliament. The government decided to challenge the no confidence vote by arguing that 33 was in fact not a majority, since half of 65 is 33.5 and therefore a number larger than 33.5 was required in order to reach a majority. The government, which initially accepted the no confidence vote, now argued that 34 votes were needed to pass the vote. The Attorney General of Guyana said that he knew all along that 34 votes were required, but he refused to say anything because he didn’t want the opposition to know that they needed 34 voters to succeed in the no confidence vote. Apparently this was a secret not known to the opposition which tabled the vote of no confidence in the first place. Not surprisingly when this case was taken before the Caribbean Court of Justice the CCJ ruled that 33 votes were sufficient because 33 is a greater number than 32 and therefore a majority of votes went in the favor of the no confidence motion.

Guyana is a nation that struggles with very basic concepts of running a nation, such as counting votes or even understanding what a majority means. As such, Guyana needed to go all the way to the CCJ to have the CCJ read Guyana’s Constitution. This level of incompetence is so absurd that it is laughable. As Walter Rodney explained, this is the comedy of Caribbean politics. There is an element of tragedy as well when one considers the suffering caused by this level of incompetence. With leadership such as this it is not difficult to figure out why for several decades now Guyana has maintained the distinction of being one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. Though it has been several decades since Rodney’s assassination, the ills that he spoke about in African and Caribbean politics are still an existing reality.

Dwayne is the author of The Political and Intellectual Legacy of Walter Rodney.

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