The conclusion in the title of Annan Boodram’s letter ‘Neither Indians nor Africans will disengage from traditional electoral support until a force comes along that is better than the PPP and PNC and can demonstrably win elections’ (SN, September 10) is grossly flawed. It is built on false premises. Mr Boodram’s first intellectual falsity is to suggest that Indians and Africans will disengage from race voting and racialized politics. They have not done so in 58 years despite generational change, advances in education and potent evidence of the destructiveness of race politics and racialism in general in Guyana ‒ among other things, crushing poverty, inequality, political despotism, ethnic discrimination, a divided populace, mass migration and economic stagnation. So, it is intellectually fraudulent to suggest they will change when “…a force comes along that is better than the PPP and PNC and can demonstrably win elections.” The WPA and AFC by sheer virtue of their multiethnic and multiracial platforms, inclusive agendas, equitable ethnic sharing ideals and manifestos were/are better than the PPP and PNC. So, there have been better political forces than the PPP and PNC in Guyana’s history with ideas demonstrably capable of winning elections. Trinidad’s People’s Partnership in 2010, Barack Obama in recent times and Cheddi Jagan in 1953 are examples of voters crossing the racial divide to vote for better ideas and a candidate who is not of their race. However, the majority of voters comprised of Indians and Africans have rejected these better political forces and ideas since the 1970s.
Mr Boodram is right that collective consciousness, memory and socialization can and will impact future generations but that is not the most compelling reason why Indians, most of whom today were too young or were born after the PNC’s rule, continue to vote for the PPP. The real reason is race, racism, racialism and racial agitation politics. That is the most compelling reason. It is the compelling reason why some 58 years after the split in the PPP, African voters with the same demographic features as Indians still continue to vote for the PNC. Mr Boodram may want to whitewash the macabre racist aspect of our collective memory, psychological training, communal learning and socialization, but it remains powerful, destructive and suffocating. The very notion of ‘not splitting the vote’ is a racialized one that psychologically holds hostage the segment of that ethnic group which wants to vote for a multiracial platform but is demonized for wanting to make that choice. It is tyranny of the racialized majority fanning fear in the minority of ethnic subjugation, reprisal and shame. This racialism still dominates Indian and African households, communities, places of worship and their socialization process. It is at its core the real darkness and ‘nightmare’ of this country some 58 years after the damnation of our racial split. It is why we have a recurring racial electoral census system.
Who is Mr Boodram trying to fool when he claims the struggle against Burnham “was not an Indian struggle against Africans but a Guyanese struggle against repression, lack of democracy, rigged elections and a militarized state”? The struggle against the PNC and Burnham as the struggle against the PPP and Jagan were always from the Indian and African perspectives, rooted in race, racial considerations and racial motivations, justifications and machinations. Racialism defines Indian and African conduct when it comes to the joust for power.
This is a land where almost everything of value and importance is cast in racialized terms and race-ridden frames. Mr Boodram states “In any case, those Africans in the WPA who fought against Burnham did so because they genuinely felt that the WPA had a chance of taking power or leading the new government.” The racial undertone of this statement is exposed by Mr Boodram’s emphasis on Africans and his facetious avoidance of those Indians also seeking power in the multiracial WPA. All and sundry were affected by the PNC’s practices and policies as they are by the PPP’s policies, including those Indians and Africans who vote on racial grounds for these despotic and failed regimes.
Mr Boodram writes, “On the other hand, while the PPP’s governance has been characterized by corruption, bribery, squandermania, nepotism (as was the PNC’s), it has certainly not exhibited outright or massive discrimination.” Wait a minute here. What is the parallel contract worker public service the PPP has created stocked with many jobs for mostly party supporters and mostly Indians with far better pay than the traditional tenured African-dominated public service? How about the vaunting of Indians into the top and middle management of the traditional African-dominated public service at an inordinate level? What about state contracts distributed in ethnically imbalanced fashion in the past 20 years? Remember the PNC did most infrastructural work through government agencies. What about the scale of the giveaway and discriminatory corruption in a PPP economy that dwarfs the size of the broken PNC economy? Some favoured sons of the PPP have obtained more in contracts in the past 20 years than the PNC budgeted for entire years for the entire country during its rule. This recurring contention raised by Mr Boodram and others that discrimination was worse under the PNC compared to the PPP is not going to be true simply because it is repeated ad nauseam.
Mr Boodram is right that ethnic voting benefits the leadership that dominates the PPP and PNC and leaves nothing but crumbs for the rest. Inequality is worse under the PPP than the PNC. However, his contention that “But the fact remains that mass repression, dictatorship, rigged elections and a militarized state are not the traits of any PPP government” is only partially right. The PPP practises elected dictatorship. There is no compelling evidence of rigged elections under the PPP to compare to the scale of the PNC’s electoral theft. The PPP practises mass repression too but it is mostly economic and in Guyana’s monetized market economy filled with Guyanese struggling for their daily bread, it has far more serious implications. The economy is the massive difference between the PPP and the PNC. The corruption under the PPP dwarfs the corruption under the PNC. Inherent in a militarized state is the use of armed force to prop up or protect the government. While the PPP has used the army and police to crush dissent at times, it is more notoriously known for its wilful blindness to drug cartels killing and maiming in what many see as for and in the interests of the PPP government. More have been extra-judicially exterminated at the hands of drug cartels, phantom gangs and other extra-judicial forces viewed by the public as mostly supporting the PPP than have perished under the PNC militarized machine, and I am not talking about criminals, but innocents. Al this happened when the PPP did not even have the ethnic backing of the armed forces!
If the armed forces were more ethnically aligned to the PPP the PPP the use of militarized power would have been far more frightening than under the PNC. Finally, there is no evidence that when the demographic tides will turn against the PPP as they inevitably will with a decreasing Indian population, the PPP will not resort to rigging elections. Judging by its despotic antics including its recent party congress at Port Mourant where there were more ballots than voters, the PPP will likely follow in the PNC’s footsteps. So, Mr Boodram’s conclusion is hanging on a false premise.
It is a consuming fabrication tied up in a blatant denial. From where I stand, it also looks like an appeal for the continuation of divisive racial politics, something that has utterly destroyed Guyana.