Former Speaker Mr Ralph Ramkarran’s recent column in the Stabroek News – ‘The PPP’s enduring fears‘ (January 14) is a brilliant reflection, from the inside, on the principal factor that has informed the PPP’s political behaviour since it took office in 1992. Some of us have, perhaps simplistically, referred to this as the ‘politics of revenge.’ The central argument of this column should be digested by all political operatives and non-governmental organizations, especially those who are tasked with interfacing with the PPP on a regular basis.
But even as I laud it I do have a problem with the column. It has to do more with what was omitted than what was said. While the gist of the column was about the PPP’s fears that are rooted in six decades of history, it is, perhaps unfair, to discuss those fears outside of the PNC’s and by extension African Guyanese fears. Mr Ramkarran spends the second half of the column discussing how the PNC could address the PPP’s fears and, although he did not say so explicitly, by extension the Indian Guyanese fears. Very well.
But the PNC’s inability to treat candidly with its stewardship of the state is rooted in the very six-decade history that informs the PPP’s contemporary behaviour. Both parties and their respective ethnic constituencies share that history and have individually and together shaped it. I make bold to say that just as the PPP’s behaviour in office has been heavily influenced by the perception and reality of its treatment at the hands of the PNC in office, that the PNC’s behaviour in office was also largely grounded in similar fears, perceived and real, arising from the PPP’s 1957-64 tenure.
Mr Ramkarran’s reference to the Indian Guyanese and PPP feeling of electoral disenfranchisement is spot on. But he omits the African Guyanese feelings of disenfranchisement. Whereas Indian Guyanese suffered from elections that were rigged against them, African Guyanese suffer from the fact that the electoral system is rigged against them. The PNC stole elections. The PPP has not stolen elections in the same barefaced way, but they have barefacedly stolen the executive government.
The present government is a prime example. The presidency was won by the PPP. But the remainder of the executive branch, the cabinet, was not won by the PPP. The results, accepted by the three political contestants, show that the majority of voters did not vote for the PPP. But those results are not reflected in the executive branch.
I anticipate that the constitutionalists on both sides will tell me that the all-PPP cabinet is a reflection of the presidential system whereby the president can choose his entire cabinet from his party if he wishes. But I wish to remind us that Guyana does not have a pure presidential system. Ours is a hybrid system—part presidential and part Westminster-parliamentary. And our cabinet functions in the parliamentary mode—unlike the pure presidential system where cabinet members do not sit in the legislature, our cabinet members sit in parliament.
From my standpoint, therefore, both the PPP and the PNC have fears born of our shared history of ethno-political insecurity and rivalry. Both parties’ behaviour in government has been largely driven by these fears. Both parties should make statements of atonement, preferably together.