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The late African American comedian, Dick Gregory, once said that White America had no mother. He reasoned that after the horrors of slavery and segregation, the dominant White elites never atoned for their infractions. According to him they simply carried on as if nothing happened—a case of putting on new clothes on dirty skin. He used the imagery of a mother cleaning the dirty skin of a child before dressing him or her with clean clothes. Today I borrow from Brother Dick to describe the PPP’s praxis.
During its first tenure in government 1957-64, the PPP evolved into a party and government which catered primarily for its ethnic constituency. Its policies and rhetoric reflected a communal rather than a national perspective. It kept Guyana out of the West Indies Federation for ethnic reasons. It privileged the agricultural sector of the economy where its ethnic constituency was largely based over the urban-based sectors where its rival constituency dominated. In effect it helped to stoke the fires that triggered the ethnic disturbances that ensued, and which contributed in no small way to its ouster from office in 1964.
When it returned to power in 1992, it simply picked up from where it left off three decades before—this time more aggressively. It cleansed the foreign service and other areas of the public service of all potential and real PNC supporters. It upped the subsidy of the failing and falling sugar industry. It disproportionately facilitated the expansion of the Indian Guyanese Private Sector through government contracts even as it downgraded the bauxite industry. It facilitated the criminalization of the State. It starved the Public Sector of wages. It developed Phantom Squads as alternatives to the State Forces to declare war on the opposition constituency leading to over 400 extrajudicial killings. It presided over the assassination of political opponents. It began to fiddle with elections. In the end it lost power because it went too far.
When it returned to power in 2020 courtesy of regime change in the face of an inconclusive election, it again just resumed its over-reach. It resumed the Criminalized State and the politics of domination—this time with even greater consequences. Using the blank-cheque it got as a gift from the régime-changers, it set about devouring everything in its path. From persecution and prosecution of the political opposition to utter disdain for the rule of law to the hijack of the keys to the newly found oil wealth, it has steamrolled the rest of the country. Extrajudicial killings resumed in earnest. It gives away the national patrimony to its supporters as cash giveaways while it again starves public servants. Seven percent versus $250,000. It refuses to negotiate with the Trade Unions except its own GAWU. It stubbornly refuses to share the burden of managing COVID-19.
The recent 2022 budget takes the cake. It purports to spend the oil money on its pet projects. It ignores poverty alleviation in favor of “trickle down” and “gushing up” economics. It insults the poor and the powerless with gimmicks and numbers which amount to little or nothing for them. It raises the tax-threshold to lower workers’ wages. It raises old age pension by a mere one hundred dollars per day. It enlarges the budget by 44 percent but does not increase the benefits for the poor by even a quarter of the percentage, The incentives for the rich abound. It is the most anti-poor budget in the post-colonial history of the country.
It is more of the same. The PPP simply puts on new clothes on a dirty skin. It daily assaults the dignity of Guyanese of all races and of the working classes. It has no regard and respect for any institution or opposition force. It exposes the country’s children to the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic in order to spite the teachers’ union which it describes as Opposition. It stands back and allow the oil companies to have their way as reward for their acceptance of the PPP government and regime. It does nothing to halt the spiraling cost of living. The PPP needs a serious cleaning up. But it has no mother. No mother to clean the filth from its skin to clan its nose, to comb its dirty hair, to cut its toenails, to wash its clothes. So, it just continues to put on clean clothes on a dirty skin.