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In my column last week (letter ‘After underfunding Georgetown for more than 25 years PPP now wants its citizens’ votes’ (KN: 22/05/2023), I made the following points that need to be resurrected from the PPP’s propagandistic morass in which Dr. Randolph Persaud has submerged them (‘Henry Jeffrey brings Naipaul and Fanon alive, but for the wrong reasons,’ KN: 24/05/2023).
Since the time of Aristotle, democratic political activity has been considered a virtuous activity, i.e., something with which one becomes involved not for personal gain but because one wishes to work for the good of society. Even the colonialists sought to hide their buying of votes but today the PPP is attempting to make of a virtue of purchasing political allegiance and votes.
The PPP’s intention is to impoverish and degrade African individuals and institutions to force them into its ranks, and given Guyana’s ethnic political division, this kind of behaviour will not lose the PPP any substantial number of votes at the polls.
The result is that after more than a total of 25 years in government, in 2022 Africans, who are 29.3% of the population, received only 10% of 288 government contracts while Indians, its core supporters who are 39.8% of the population, received 72.8% of those contracts. Furthermore, the government has been attempting to undermine and destroy African institutions such as IDPADA-G that are seeking to improve the condition of the African people.
As is to be expected, the regime denies all of this but given its intention to establish political/ethnic dominance in Guyana, i.e., a form of ethnic apartheid, calls upon it to do an ethnic disparity analysis to either debunk or do something about such claims fall on deaf ears.
Freedom is the absence of necessity, coercion or constrain in choice or action and the regime’s attempts to buy the allegiance and votes of any substantial number of Africans is more likely to fail because from slavery Africans have had a history of struggle. Buying votes is immoral and illegal, but as in the past, where persons in both Indian and African communities took what was on offer, people should take what is offered but vote as they please.
Dr. Persaud began by invoking V.S. Naipaul and Frantz Fanon as the backdrops for his little excursion.
He claimed that although I invoked Aristotle, there is little evidence of “political science” in my presentation. So far as being scientific is concerned, I believe that my letter represents as objective an assessment of PPP’s behaviour towards Africans as he is likely to get. Aristotle was mentioned only to give an historical/philosophical indication of the centuries of which Item 1 above: the buying votes and entering politics to enrich one’s self has been frowned upon.
I did not say a word in my letter about the WPA or Tacuma Ogunseye, but he raised them because of their stance that the PPP is attempting to establish ethnic apartheid in Guyana, that a form of shared governance regime in which the major ethnic groups are represented at the executive decision-making table is required and that Africans must be prepared for a political battle to win such a regime. Frantz Fanon is well known for his belief in the redemptive power of struggle to the point where he suggested that ‘Violence is man re-creating himself’.
Dr. Persaud said that “one must also be mindful of Frantz Fanon’s warning, if indeed that is what it is, that ‘I will not make myself the man of the past. I do not want to sing the past to the detriment of my present and my future …. (and) in no way does my basic vocation have to be drawn from the past of peoples of color.’”
If Persaud wishes to turn the above statement of Fanon into a warning, I am not singing ‘the past to the detriment of my present and my future’ but as a defense against the inhuman present and future the PPP has in store for the African people. Furthermore, there is an even more popular warning ‘Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it’ and what follows indicates that Fanon was well aware of this. ‘The claim to a national culture in the past does not only rehabilitate that nation but serve as a justification for the hope of a future national culture. … Perhaps we haven’t sufficiently demonstrated that colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures, and destroys it.’
Dr. Persaud would have us believe, that after 25 years in government ‘no one should be surprised that there is a shortage of Afro-Guyanese contractors and that is because Africans ‘tell young people that business is evil, that they should instead aim for a decent job in the public service, or the professions. This comment exposes the classic disrespectful and prejudicial excuses of the PPP. But even if this is its perception, it has done everything to undermine African business possibilities – remember its approach to the Linden Bauxite pension fund – and nothing to even try to change that situation at the same time as it complains about and try to rectify Indian disparity in the public and security services!
To the chagrin of Dr. Persaud, let us return to the history that he and his party seeks to ‘distort, disfigure and destroy’. Total freedom from slavery was won in 1838 and by that year 4,646 Africans had already bought 7,000 acres of land and formed the village movement; by 1842 they had bought 15,000 acres for some $250,000. Africans were leaving the plantations voluntarily en masse largely to establish their own businesses. However, the truth is that large successful African businesses are most likely to provide donations to African political parties and this runs counter to the PPP’s drive to establish ethnic/political dominance.
Dr. Persaud proceeded to observe that ‘the comrades that are being represented as oppressed had power for 33 years, and when they didn’t, they had Dr. Henry Jeffrey in office, at the highest level, for sixteen years. I doubt that 200 years after slavery Afro-Guyanese in Georgetown would not see the utter absurdity offered to them.’
Dr. Persaud speaks as if the PPP of 1992 is the same as the PPP of 2002 or 2023 and he simply does not understand the problem! The PPP came government 1992 and after Cheddi Jagan died and Janet Jagan was forced to resign, decided to establish an ethnic/political dictatorship that systematically seeks to furtively deprive Africans of their rights. How should the PNC or Jeffrey have known that the PPP would have sunk to this depth?
Furthermore, if you know anything about PPP and politics in Guyana, you will be aware that given its constitutional arrangements that de facto couple of the leadership of the ruling party and the all-powerful presidency, political governance can become a ‘one man show’ it at present is, any talk about Jeffrey having any real power is nonsense. I did, however, suspect that something was wrong and April 2002, and while still in government, I warned the PPP in a widely circulated document.
‘The establishment of a workable political system is critical to our development. In my view, power sharing is the less desirable alternative at this stage. However, if, as a result of negligence or impracticability, normal politics is not urgently established power sharing remains an alternative. To establish normal politics requires a paradigmatic shift in our political thinking. It will not be easy to convince people seasoned in the extant political culture of the necessity for change. There will be a tendency to want to adopt some but not all of the above measures. This is fine once we understand that success depends upon our willingness to create a truly competitive political environment’ (‘Establishing Normal Politics in Guyana’).
Dr. Persaud, your curiosity about what Dr. Jeffrey did during his sixteen years in high office and his ‘entertainment’ by ‘Jagdeo’ is awaiting in the public domain. However, this hackneyed attempt to personalize this issue is of little value and is merely fluff intended to impress the simple-minded. If I knew of the plans of the PPP and did nothing, that might make me an opportunist, hypocrite and whatever, but in no way makes it less true or exculpates the PPP of attempting to establish political/ ethnic dominance in Guyana.