There are two or three ways to ‘read’ former President Jagdeo’s statement about “the resurgence of anti-Indian racism.”
The most obvious is that when he raised the cry, blood-curdling in its import, that Indians were again about to be “hated,” with all that it suggests in the popular Indian imagination, Mr Jagdeo wished to reinforce a truth close to the surface of many Indian minds ‒ that the ‘jaat’ able and obliged to protect them was none other than their own.
Or it could be read that Mr Jagdeo, uncomfortable with the idea that his and previous PPP governments had been mindlessly discriminating against qualified blacks for position and favour (as was claimed in the libel case against Kissoon, Harris and Kaieteur News) wished to hit back at his detractors with the counter-claim that he could not disqualify Indian applicants, adding that the plausible reason for the accusation against him was anti-Indian bias on the part of his critics.
Or again it could be that, once on a podium or speaker’s platform, the appeal to circle the wagons against the collective enemy jumps out of the throats of PPPites as their own code and justification for excluding the Others and favouring their own.
The public event becomes another open-air bottom-house. It is a line bound to call forth a reaction, the bounties of which are reaped at election time. It is a protection racket in which the bogey man is waved and the susceptible predictably frightened. It is a form of manipulation. Again it is quite possible that Mr Jagdeo, weak-minded as Mr Kissoon would have us believe from his letter on the subject, genuinely is persuaded that the problem is not “the appearance of discrimination” but the ill will of his critics coupled with an underlying racist animosity. Except that Mr Jagdeo, in my opinion, is an ably intelligent man. Which leaves us with the conclusion that he intended to make a public statement on the court case, decided what he would say, and then said it.
The man at whose funeral he spoke I knew and interviewed once about local Hindusim was personable, articulate, dedicated, and loyal to the Hindu cause in its political construction. It is doubtful that he would have been offended by the light Mr Jagdeo has thrown on the matter in question. A Brahmin family whose pujas he officiated at agreed with me that he was all right, but added for my information that his views on some matters of the faith, as well as others needed updating.
It is a sign of health in the community that the funeral oration by Mr Jagdeo has evoked comment. Mr Kissoon regrets that none in the political sphere or in academia have, so far, seen it fit to react. Frequently, in the newspapers and on subjects such as these, the reactions are few. Former Prime Minister Hamilton Greene is unyielding in his resistance to that re-writing of history that has become an arm of certain politicians. Barry Braithwaite, David Hinds, Eusi Kwayana, M Maxwell ‒ the names are few, and it is clear that there is more to be done. Not all write, and not all apparently wish to be bothered by the endlessly mushrooming crop of lies coming from certain quarters. But as I have said before, a duty is owed to the coming generation. They need to be furnished with argument and fact to withstand and to dismantle the scaffolding of disinformation and self-delusion with which their destruction is being built. On matters of governance there have been many Indo-Guyanese commentators and politicians, some of whom contribute regularly, that have agitated for improvement. Plus the press has generally done a good job.
In Mr Jagdeo’s case, there came a time when the animus against him (in one or two cases) fell into overdrive and overkill. His public and press relations needed strengthening. But above all, he needed to sift the good advice he was getting from public sources, from the inevitable naysaying and opposition criticism and to re-adjust some things. Mr Ramotar similarly needs to readjust his sights.
The question of filling the upper ranks with loyalists and friends was also raised by the PPP during the PNC years. There were other causes I believe, but the effects and visual impact was the same. As it is both parties in Guyanese history, like parties everywhere, have to strike a balance between ethnic loyalists, non-ethnic supporters, non-supporters as technocrats, opposition talents to be wooed, sycophants of every hue and stripe drawn to the soup bowl, for the relatively few positions at the upper layers. But when it comes to self-enrichment and empowerment of co-ethnics by award of contract and other directly financial means, the PPP is heading to its historical exit with a lot of questions left behind. It could be the paradigm of “empowerment” it brings to its politics. It could be something like corruption with all the rationalisation excusing it. It could be the habits of in-group solidarity and the racial preference that supports them. A mature political party approaches the question with more than dismissal of public concern.
What has the PPP learnt from this episode that goes beyond Mr Jagdeo’s generalised counter accusation of anti-Indian racism? Does he really feel Mr Kissoon qualifies as an anti-Indian racist?