Successful democracies are those which accept that there has to be space created for everyone

Dear Editor,

I commence this letter by using the words of Martin Luther King, Jr, an American hero who is being honoured and venerated in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, October, 16 at the official opening of a national monument which is in the likeness of a statue.

“We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

A few evenings ago, I had the good fortune of passing by a PPP/C public meeting at which Donald Ramotar was speaking. I say “good fortune” because he was, at that time, beginning to address the array of opposition leaders that stood before him including, yours truly. Interestingly, he brushed past David Granger and his “old” military ways, Khemraj Ramjattan’s difficulties with the PPP, and the wrongs of the private newspapers and chose to address me in a fulsome way beginning with my assumption of the role of the Prime Ministerial candidacy consequent on the ill health of Mrs. Sheila Holder, and ending with my days as a member of the PNC. Knowing that Mr. Ramotar is fully aware of the truth about Mrs. Holder’s health, and the manner of my being called by the party to replace her, I was disappointed that he would use those events in a mocking way, but I suppose it is his style. Strangely, I was neither surprised nor angry with him for the words spoken about me and quite understand that the party that he represents can only find relevance if it keeps the nation chained to the past fifty years. Yet, as a national leader, I must be committed to accepting Donald Ramotar for who he is and to working with him for the national good just as I am willing to do the same with David Granger.

And so, the crowd was reminded that Trotman is not “innocent” because he was a PNC executive. An executive in the days of the 1997 and 2001 elections and unrest which followed, and was one of the executives who visited Buxton.  I can no more deny the fact that I was a member of the PNC as I can deny the fact that I was born. I am tempted to say in response “so what”, but understand the complexities that drive and define the politics of Guyana.

If I am to develop Ramotar’s reasoning and take it to its logical conclusion, it means that I would be entitled to say that because he is of the PPP and because, I know of the mistakes, misruling and high crimes and misdemeanors committed by members of his party, I should never have anything to do with him and his colleagues. Quite a nonsensical argument.

Successful democracies are those which accept that there has to be space created for everyone and that there must be an acceptance that no one group should rule by instilling mortal fear in their supporters about others. In contrast, failed nations are those which sought to maintain the manacles of the past.

If this nation is to have a chance at success and development, not measured by buildings and roads, but by human elements such as safety, comfort, peace, and harmony, then the message of hate and fear must be rejected. Unless we come to accept that we each have a right to be here and to share not only in the resources of state, but just as importantly, in the decision-making, then we are doomed.

This is why the AFC’s message is so important, because it allows those of us who were in the PNC to unite with those who were formerly in the PPP, ROAR, GAP, WPA, and other parties.

We are cognizant of the fact that simply calling disparate forces together in an unstructured and ad hoc way, with the hope that past hurts and wrongs will be erased and forgotten with time, is a pipe dream and this is why the AFC has from the inception declared that it will commission an Inquiry to address historic and outstanding issues of rights, justice, and reconciliation.

This is going to be uncomfortable for many, but the discomfort will be minuscule in comparison to the great benefits that will flow when we give up the war and stop recruiting our children for it, but instead, educate them to acknowledge, embrace and celebrate our ethnic diversity, and to respect the various institutions to which we choose to belong or to reject. I was reminded today by an eminent citizen that many are still “deeply wounded” by the days of PNC’s administration. Deep wounds, no doubt, have also been inflicted by the PPP. So what are we to do, end the wounding, or continue the wounding?

One’s natural urge is to respond in the same way in which one is attacked, but I have reminded myself that though I function in the world of politics, I do not have to become what it represents. The choice is mine. I can allow myself to be wounded by others and be ashamed of my PNC past, or to see it as a former part of me that allows me to understand better who I am, where I came from, and where I want to go.

I can see that past as a part of me that provides a necessary component, linking with others from the PPP and elsewhere, for the construction of a New Order. I choose to do the latter for I understand that I have a choice in how I am defined, and I choose to use every day of my life to change and transform this country into what I know is something better. This week the AFC demonstrated that many of the wounded have chosen to end the war and to come under the banner of its peace and unity.

I close as I began by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.  again, silently wishing, that even those who espouse hatred and peddle lies and fear will see the light; even as thousands of others are already walking towards it.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Yours faithfully,
Raphael Trotman

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