In light of the Rodney Commission of Inquiry (COI) and recent talks in the blogs and letter columns of the need for the PNC to apologise, please allow us – two relatively young people – to share our experiences growing up under the PNC of Mr Desmond Hoyte. We do not intend to discount the experiences of the older folks who have suffered under the paramountcy of the party and have strongly called for an apology. While we do not seek to diminish the experiences of the older folks, we would like to share our personal experiences as youths growing up under the Hoyte PNC; let’s say PNC part 2.
Editor, a brief digression is in order. It is unfortunate that the name of the great Guyanese politician and historian, Dr Walter Rodney, who is most associated with multi-ethnic mobilisation is now used in his death to divide the country. The Rodney COI should have been done since 1995. Today the PPP is using the name of Rodney to help in its race-baiting agenda of ‘don’t split the votes.’
The first point we would like to impart is we cannot find a single incident of being harassed or victimised by PNC part 2. As young PYO activists we were free to organise and post fliers in South Georgetown during the run-up to the 1992 general election. We cannot think of a single incident of discrimination we faced when applying to UG or seeking a job. Yes, the Guyana dollar was devalued. That affected everyone regardless of political persuasion. The government of PNC part 2 paid the CXC and GCE ‘O’ Level fees for one of us, as they did for thousands of other students at the time, whose parents found it impossible to raise the Guyana dollar funds after the devaluations.
The father of one writer (Boyo Ramsaroop) was at the time a fierce public critic of the PNC and was widely known to be a diehard Jagan loyalist. Yet President Hoyte invited him to be part of several local and international trade fairs (Miami, Vancouver, etc). The PNC never stopped buying flowers from the Ramsaroop business. In fact, because the flowers were local exotics, the PNC eagerly sought them in order to enhance Guyana’s tourism product. In contrast, government support declined under the PPP (with most of Ramsaroop’s work done gratis), and after the Ramsaroop family joined the AFC, it virtually ceased.
Those who support the PPP today with a racist or opportunistic agenda, try to pretend that the seven years under Hoyte did not exist; that there was no PNC part 2. Gokarran Sukhdeo, in his recent meeting with Brig Granger in New York said, “To me, an apology without restitution serves no useful purpose, just as an apology for slavery is meaningless without reparation.” (Sukhdeo’s presentation can be read in SN, Monday June 9, under the caption, ‘We are fooling no one with patchwork apologies and bogus reformation’.) Sukhdeo hits the nail on the head here. The Hoyte years precisely constituted the PNC apology.
President Desmond Hoyte virtually reversed everything that occurred under PNC part 1, culminating with free and fair elections! One of his first acts was the removal of the ban on food items that was perceived as having affected Indo-Guyanese mainly. Isn’t that an apology? Hoyte reached out to Indian businesspeople regardless of their political affiliation, as illustrated by the case of Boyo Ramsaroop we mentioned. In fact, this caused Hoyte to be dubbed Desmond Persaud. Doesn’t that constitute an apology also? Hoyte also removed the compulsory aspect of the Guyana National Service that was perceived to be humiliating to Indian women particularly. Isn’t that an apology too?
What about Hoyte’s jailing of the head of the infamous House of Israel, Rabbi Washington? Doesn’t that action speak louder than words? Mind you, Editor, this is the same House of Israel under scrutiny in the Rodney COI and one of its founders, Joe Hamilton, is now a high-ranking member of the PPP government. Let us not forget too, it was the PPP who pardoned and released Rabbi Washington.
Dr Dolly Hassan, who was also at the NY meeting with Granger in a recent letter to the press mentioned freedom to criticise the government as if it were something only realised under the PPP. That freedom was granted under Desmond Hoyte. Stabroek News came into existence under his presidency as did CN Sharma’s TV station – of note, is that no independent TV or radio station has been granted a licence since the end of the Hoyte administration in 1992. What Guyana has experienced up to 2001, was a continuation of the Hoyte years – there were no bad policies coming out of the Hoyte administration (PNC part 2) that the PPP had cause to reverse.
In fact, what the PPP had promised was to accelerate the changes begun under Hoyte (among other still unfulfilled promises such as broad-based governance, rooting out corruption and constitution and security reform). However, particularly after 2001 the PPP has reversed much of what was born in the Hoyte years. This is why today there is rampant corruption (under Hoyte public officials were punished, while the PPP has a long, spotless record of not punishing any high official), out-of-control crime and an ever widening gap between the rich and poor. Therefore, if we are to be fair, we must compare the PPP to PNC part 2 and not part 1.
Finally, Editor, we note Dr Jagan entered into an arrangement with the Burnham PNC (PNC part 1) for PPP activists who went to the Soviet Union to study to obtain jobs with any public entity. Indeed, Mr Jagdeo was one of those activists who obtained a job as an economist through this facility at State Planning under the government of PNC part 2. And the rest is history as they say.