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Since the split of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in the 1950s into the Forbes Burnham and Cheddie Jagan factions there has been a studied and focused strategy to demonise African Guyanese and relegate their contributions to the dustbin of history.
In 1964 when Burnham, under the People’s National Congress (PNC) in a coalition with The United Force (TUF), won the General Elections the PPP responded that they were cheated out of government. This was driven by a perception that because East Indians were deemed the racial majority it was felt the reins of government should be an automatic entitlement.
Even the 2015 Election which was not marred in controversy, because it was not won by the PPP but by the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition, the PPP claimed it was rigged.
The right to one man one vote (universal suffrage), a fight initiated in 1926 by Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, is often credited to Cheddie Jagan. In 1926 Jagan was an eight-year-old. Though the contributions of Jagan, Burnham and others in making universal adult suffrage possible in 1953 must not be ignored, Jagan is not the person who led the charge. That historical accolade belongs to Critchlow and the Trade Union Movement.
Last year August, President Irfaan Ali, in his Emancipation Message, made an attempt to erase African historical experiences in this society by claiming Africans came here- as chattel slaves, whipped, violated, brutalised and resisting- to improve their lives. When his public mischief was confronted he attempted a half-hearted apology.
In workplaces where Africans have historically gravitated when the PPP was in Opposition the party called for ethnic balance. When they came to office they have sought to refashion a false balance by removing or miniaturising Africans presence in sectors where they have been the majority, but at the same is failing to ensure ethnic balance in the private sector where Africans are in the minority. Equal Employment Opportunity is a convenient ploy for them.
As they push African labour out of their historical workplaces, and refuse to facilitate a policy that would see employment in the private sector to absorb those pushed out from the public sector, if they are not closing down government places where Africans dominate they are imposing wages/salaries and other working conditions that make it difficult for Africans to thrive.
In communities and administrative regions where Africans are in significant numbers, the PPP uses the apparatus of State to deny fair budgetary allocations and developmental projects. In the instances where they take the shame out of their eyes and facilitate some spending, they ensure the contractors are not from the community, which is another form of ensuring the economic deprivation of Africans.
Look at their land-grabbing strategy which has intensified post-August 2020. Africans are losing ancestral lands to the government and their supporters under various pretexts, including false claims the lands belong to the State. With growing perception the judiciary is politically aligned and the Police are being used to enforce the PPP’s excesses, Africans fear there will be no justice for what is rightly theirs.
It was reported in the news last week that the regime has taken a decision to dismantle the Demerara Harbour Bridge. Only God can convince me this act is not the intention of the PPP to erase another contribution of Burnham to this society. This bridge does not only have historical pride to Guyana as the world’s longest single floating bridge when it was constructed, or a feat that was achieved under the stewardship of a Guyanese Engineer, Joseph Holder, but it remains a viable artery to connecting the East Bank and West Bank of Demerara.
If the PPP could pump billions of dollars into pet projects, some of which viability remains questionable, they could find money to refurbish and maintain the Demerara Harbour Bridge. Something is radically wrong with a government that sets out to erase the history of any group. Even more egregious is that the attempt strikes at the positive contributions of African Guyanese to the building of this nation and the development of all Guyanese.
To be continued…