A hackneyed, self-glorifying historical narrative

Dear Editor,
All political parties, especially those that have existed for more than twenty years, transmit a political narrative of their ideals, history, events, achievements and desires.  But none of the existing narratives in Guyana has become as hackneyed, repetitive and self-glorifying as that of the PPP, and by extension, the state it has run now for twenty years.

Recently the British MI 5 released documents to show how the PPP was removed from office in the early 1950s and the lengths to which the British went to remove the popular movement. The information confirmed, albeit from hindsight and with more revelations, what had become common knowledge.  Quite naturally, the PPP, through its presidential candidate General Secretary Donald Ramotar, was quick off the mark to adulate the revelations. “Cheddi Jagan and the PPP stand vindicated” said Ramotar. This is typical of the storyline from Freedom House. No mention in any of the narratives of the 1950s of the other figures in the popular movement unless they are in the PPP fold, so there is Ashton Chase, but no Forbes Burnham, Sydney King (Eusi Kwayana), Martin Carter, JP Lachmansingh, or Jane Phillips Gay.

Another report on a state-owned website is typical of how history is represented: “Presidential Candidate and Adviser Donald Ramotar recently apprised youths about Guyana’s political history highlighting the fact that Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan and Ashton Chase were still youths in the forefront of the struggle forming the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) the forerunner to the PPP.”

But the glorifications and revisions are not all about the past.  The current President is the current custodian of the cloth from which the “Great Leader” or “Dear Leader” and “one-family” version of history is cut.

The very term “vindicated” is part of a cluster of terminologies that define the PPP’s public vocabulary and unchanging sense of itself. But it is only one of the many expressions that are nauseatingly trite and simplistic. If one reads the Guyana Chronicle, another unofficial arm of the party in power, one notices a plethora of phrases “trailblazing,”  “glorious days” and related one-dimensional revisions and typecasting.

The PPP attempts to hog the historical record of the whole of Guyana’s anti-colonial and post-colonial struggles with emphases on events closest to its own political evolution. Thus we have the Enmore Martyrs; Ballot Box Martyrs; Kowsilia and Arnold Rampersaud among others. All these people and events represented real and significant sacrifices, but Guyana’s political history is not this slender.

From time to time the PPP accuse the opposition and columnists of playing the “racial card.” This is an intriguing phrase. It is a description which they have consistently failed to acknowledge as true of themselves.  In other words, while the game is played with more than one card, the PPP and its spokespersons deny their own historical hand in the racial deck.

But more importantly the triteness of the narrative has for a very, very long time crippled the possibilities of ‘self‘- reflection and self-criticism for the PPP.  Thus its elevated sense of itself has obscured and prevented the PPP from seeing the broad complications in Guyana’s political and social history that does not end and begin with that party’s definition of enemy and friends.

This self-serving narrative is what continues to prevent any chance of dialogue. The denial through convenience of the complex historical development of Guyana and a record that was not only the making and province of the Jagans or the PPP continues.
And yes, I am among the many “detractors” of the PPP and its government.
Yours faithfully,
Nigel Westmaas

Around the Web