If anything proves that the PPP/C has discounted receiving African votes in the near future it must be its decision to change the proposed site of the 1823 monument from the Independence Square to Carifesta Avenue and its administratively incorrect and flimsy excuse for doing so!
Why else would any political party of sane people build up so much bad faith with the broadest cross-section of the leadership of a group that has electorally demonstrated, in no uncertain terms, that it already has no confidence in it? How else also can we explain its doing so at a time when the people of Linden, who belong to the same kind of constituency and with whom the government has just signed an agreement, is so fed up with the latter’s intransigence that they are now blaming the party they voted for for allowing the PPP/C to get away with not implementing the agreement. But putting all this aside, why in our already divided society, would the government present the opposition, and particularly APNU, with a physical mobilisation object that it could drag right into the coming decades?
The most prevalent explanation of why the regime has taken this blatantly provocative path in the manner it did is the commonplace one that is usually given when the PPP/C makes these highly inexplicable decisions. It is that the party wishes to provoke an African response that will help it to mobilise its estranged supporters in the event of an election that may result from the upcoming budget not being passed as a result of opposition objections. If this point of view is correct, the regime may have overreached itself, for this particular action appears to many of its supporters as too highhanded and dangerous: putting the fortunes of the PPP/C and its leadership ahead of the security of its traditional supporters.
There is another more practical but again traditional explanation. It is that almost as soon as it had turned the sod in Independence Square in 2000, the PPP/C recognised the explosive nature of the site and did not want to present the African people and their leaders with such an historic/psychological open space for future mobilisation.
It is not simply that slaves were ill-treated and slain in that place but that Independence Square/Parade Ground has been the historic stumping ground of the PNC since the 1950s. It is there that it has held some of its largest ever rallies to mobilise against and contribute to throwing the PPP out of government in those troubled times. Then again, the place is called Independence Square and placing the monument there may suggest that Africans have made an overwhelming contribution to the struggle for independence, something the PPP has historically associated with its own history. Why give the opposition the opportunity of a site that will make it so easy for it to portray poignant images of blood, sacrifice and resistance as essential requirements for freedom!
Everyone can see that the location chosen by the regime on Carifesta Avenue offers no such opportunities. There is no essential historical African attachment to the site to allow for a spontaneous outpouring of locational sufferings and grief. Moreover, the site can be more easily cordoned off to prevent “adventurist” political action and it is of course located on the doorstep of the Guyana Defence Force, the supposed gate-keepers!
If the above is true it is a clear demonstration that although its context has changed, the PPP/C simply does not understand this or is incapable of making the appropriate transitional response! The party appears to be still operating on a trajectory that seeks to keep the African people at bay for some considerable time in the future. In doing so, it has now left the opposition, and particularly what appears to many to be a politically reluctant APNU together with and its core constituency, with no alternative but to reject and have nothing to do with the new site, organise opposition to it and make a commitment to changing the location if and when the opportunity arises. The only question now must be how to organise while not at the same time presenting the PPP/C with an ethnic mobilisation opportunity. To many this might appear bourgeois caution, but I believe our peculiar context requires it.
I said above that the regime’s explanation for changing the site is administratively incorrect and flimsy. Yet these very flaws may offer a way out of the current dilemma: assuming the regime recognises where it politically is. The contention that a notice inviting public responses to its decision to change the site of the monument from Independence Square was published cannot pass the test of administrative justice. If one agrees upon a course of action with any specific person or group it is incorrect to change that decision without sufficient and specific notice to such entities. Such behaviour might well be even justiciable and I want to suggest that the regime recognise this and that in the interest of good future relations it finds a way to change course and not create a physical monument where countless hundreds will be socialised into dislike for it.
It is in the nature of our society and our political management arrangements for incidents such as this to materialise from time to time. What the present context would suggest to the rational and historically unencumbered mind is the need for a new form of collective governance that will allow our people to flower and grow together. But as I have argued a number of times in this column, even if rational, the present leadership of the PPP/C is certainly not historically unencumbered!