Baldeo Persaud writing in the Stabroek News (September 23), ‘Walter Rodney must be turning in his grave,‘ chose to criticize the leadership of the WPA for being a partner in APNU that will contest this year’s general elections. What Mr Persaud failed to mention was that Dr Rodney was a transformative leader, and that even though some of his approaches were radical, he was also a pragmatist. Dr Rodney, like most transformative leaders, was able to articulate his vision, and in the process inspire his followers. His own high ethical behaviour instilled pride and garnered respect and trust; the energy and passion that were a hallmark of his oratorical delivery, provoked, and ultimately caused positive change.
It is obvious that Mr Persaud never met Dr Rodney. It is instructive for students of history to note that during the period that Dr Rodney and the WPA were fighting the PNC under Burnham, the PPP was offering the PNC “critical support,” and later, Presidents Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham were holding talks (1984-85) towards establishing a government of national unity.
Twenty-seven years ago, the leader of the PPP knew that national unity was an ideal that was worth reaching across the political divide to achieve. Both Jagan and Burnham knew that Guyana would never achieve her true potential unless there was a serious attempt at ending the winner takes all system that currently exists, and replacing it with some form of shared governance. They saw what happened when the party that won 50% behaved as if it had won 100%, and the party that won 49% was treated as if it had won nothing.
Today, supporters of the ruling party scoff at the current attempt to achieve national unity, and the formation of a political partnership to put an end to one-party rule even though it was the very PPP while in opposition that was the champion of such a political arrangement.
Mr Persaud is right: Dr Rodney is turning in his grave. Not for the reasons cited, however, but because the same things for which he fought and died are still with us. Under the Jagdeo/Ramotar PPP regime, there are no lines for food but the lines for exit visas out of Guyana are longer; there is food on the shelves but the cost of living is so high that the poor are unable to buy; blackouts are still a national problem; Linden, where Rodney’s WPA gained a lot of support, is now a ghost town compared to what it was.
The PPP is now the paramount party, and the deaths during the struggles of the ’80s pale in comparison to the over 200 murdered young men during the recent troubles. Yes, Dr Rodney would be marching today against this narco-state, he would be ashamed of the corruption and disappointed that even though his nemesis the PNC voted for an inquiry into his killing, the PPP refused to have one. He would look at the smelly garbage infested gutters and drains in Georgetown, the stagnant green waters, the mosquitoes and garbage, and denounce the rulers who are content to rule from a garbage city, instead of a garden city.
Mr Persaud, unlike Messrs Jagdeo and Ramotar, Dr Rodney was man of the people, he was champion of the small man and identified with them. Yes, he is turning in his grave because 16% VAT on top of 33% PAYE means the working poor can never ever hope to escape their poverty. He would compare the Pradovilles and the mansions of the rich and politically well-connected to the shacks and shanties of rural and urban poor and ask, “Where is the progress?”
Dr Rodney would not be happy with what the PPP has done to Guyana. The laid-off sugar workers; the armies of unemployed youth; the UG students who can’t find jobs; the drugs; the corruption; the WikiLeaks cables; the unsolved murders, even of a government minister; the abuse of power; and a President who acts like a king. No, Walter Rodney would be a very angry man.