I am an advocate for education, and in that pursuit the unbiased documentation of our history is paramount. I am of the firm opinion that high public officials and influence makers must use language carefully and be truthful in their presentations, lest they inflame, misinform or distort. In this regard I find the President of the Republic, Mr Donald Ramotar to be a serial offender. The President continues to disappoint every time he makes a public pronouncement. Speaking at the WPO Congress at Diamond over the weekend, Ramotar told the attendees that they must guard against undemocratic forces that looted, burnt and robbed people during the 1992, 1997 and 2001 general elections and established ties with armed gangs in 2002 to rob and kill people on the East Coast Demerara and Rose Hall, East Berbice. Referring to the monument built by the people of Buxton to remember those who died there during the troubles, the President was reported to have said: “Instead now they have built a monument to some of the criminals who have died. This is the role model, this is the example they want to give to our young people… criminal elements calling themselves liberation fighters.”
It is clear that we had a situation where instead of using an important occasion like the Congress of the women’s arm of the PPP, to outline a developmental strategy for the liberation of the women in our society from violence, poverty and poor education, Ramotar chose to incite and inflame. May I be pompous enough to remind the President that he is not president of the PPP, but President of Guyana, which includes Buxton. Here again, instead of using the Congress as a teachable moment Mr Ramotar chose to resort to implied race-baiting and by implication calling Buxtonians criminals.
This would have been a perfect opportunity for the President to be presidential and say to the Congress that it was time that we bind up the wounds of the past, and look to a future where our sons and daughters can live together, work together, play together; that in order for Guyana to meet its full potential, national unity has to be achieved. It could have been a moment where he could have educated the women present on the economic price of hate and bigotry, ethnic triumphalism and racial distrust. Instead of denigrating the monument at Buxton, Ramotar could have used it not as a symbol of hate, but one of hope.
We live in a plural society and one would expect that a president who is elected in such a setting would be extremely careful with his remarks. I don’t know who advises this Chief Executive, or who his speech writers are (if any), but they like the President continue to disappoint. Speaking to your base and rallying your base is totally acceptable, but to do so using inflammatory language is totally unacceptable.
The President must know that this will not bring better housing and change the squalor that families endure in places like Tent City. Many of the women in the audience at the Congress I am sure would have loved to hear the President declare war on poverty, rather than impliedly pitting Indian against African. These women manage the family budget and many struggle to make ends meet with meagre financial resources.
It would have been more beneficial to them to hear the President outline his economic plans for strong village economies, with home based businesses and co-ops headed by women, using this as a path to economic independence. The President could have declared war on domestic violence and the continued discrimination against our women and girls.
But no, we are not that blessed here in the Cooperative Republic to have a man of vision as our leader. The sad irony is that most of the women at the Congress, who would have voted for this President and past PPP presidents, are still to reap any interest from their political investment. So the cycle of racial division and ethnic cleavage continues, while the masses of poor Indians and Africans suffer in a country rich in resources and full of promise.