The election campaign kicked off in an aggressive mood. Money did not seem to be a problem, and the rallies became excursions and “bubble sessions.“
The intention, it seems, is to create and cultivate a youth ‘shock force‘ that is fed on high hopes, and indoctrinated in a belief of impending victory for the PPP/C. The election campaign is the best ever at the moment for sheer colour and creativity, spontaneously displayed at every meeting. However, in his October 30,1996 Toronto speech, the late President Cheddi Jagan spoke about returning to a “ new beginning” of racial working class and national unity. He had spelt this out years ago in May 1988 when he delivered a paper for the Genesis of a Nation symposium.
“Class, he said,”is more fundamental than race.“ This does not mean that there is no such thing as ethnicity, that there is no racial problem. There is a problem. And it must be addressed. It must be neither underestimated nor overestimated. It must not be swept under the carpet with the pretence that it does not exist. At the same time, it must not be seen as an unsolvable problem.
What needs to be done is to recognize the racial problem and implement certain reforms. Apart from constitutional guarantees, these should include a balanced and fair Race Relations Board, an equal opportunity law, fair employment practices and affirmative action as in the United States.
Dr Jagan stated that these reforms must pave the way for a revolutionary approach to the problem. Fundamentally the way forward in multiracial, multireligious and multicultural developing countries in a new socio-economic order – a national democratic state. This is a state that represents the interests of all classes, groups and social strata. It is an inclusive state. Our major racial groups must find the means of cooperation, including political power-sharing regardless of which party wins this election.
The strength of a national democracy resides with the people and their institutions, and it is our duty to harness this strength. While we lead at the top, we must build our strength from the bottom, and in a crisis we must turn the pyramid of power upside down and put people’s power at the top. The government should not use a number of methods to hinder the election campaigning of the opposition parties. By placing restrictions on CNS 6 the government has severely curtailed the freedom of the people and the press.
Let there be sunshine on all sides of the curtain; if ever the sunshine should be equal on all sides, the curtain will be no more. Let there be, I suggest today, an environment of tranquillity and of goodwill on all sides during this election season.