Politics in Guyana is reactive because survival is the name of the game

Dear Editor,

My good friend, Dr Tarron Khemraj (TK) has apparently undergone an epiphany. The problem though is that his outpourings are premised on a superficial, grasp of the multi-layered realities of Guyana’s political expanse. Had it not been so TK would certainly know that almost every conceivable pathology, currently characterizing Guyana’s politics, originated and became embedded in the socio-political landscape under the PNC. Thus such naivety is quite puzzling from someone of such impressive academic credentials, someone who should have been able to objectively contextualize and display profound comparative analysis.

Even more mystifying is that on Stabroek News blog, TK says Annan Boodram needs to be cathartic. This after he, TK, becomes reborn under the PNC/APNU that not only does not know the word catharsis but, worse yet, refuses to acknowledge its own awful track record and pathologies, and continues to oppose for opposing sake, while promoting an active ethnocentric agenda in a multiracial society.  Of course TK is absolutely entitled to the right to political association but he would be aware that such a right, does not, ipso facto, transform him into an authority on Guyana’s politics.

For TK, politics 101 à la Guyana is probably necessary: corruption ‒ both PPP and PNC; squandermania – both; bribery – both; nepotism – both; actual (as against imagined) dictatorship – only PNC; rigged national elections – only PNC. And now comes PNC leader, David Granger, who has a reputation of sanitizing Guyana’s history to make the PPP look like wrongdoers with the PNC looking like saints. Surely Indians are not that self-destructive to empower someone like David Granger as Guyana’s president? And for the likes of TK, who talks about democracy and the PNC in the same breath, a chat with former members of the PNCR, and those who lived through the PNC years, would be quite enlightening.

So what gives? To begin with politics is more responsive and reactive, rather than proactive and transformative, since survival is absolutely the name of the game. Ask the AFC which started its journey on very high moral and ethical grounds. The only proactive politicians Guyana ever possessed were Mr Forbes Burnham and Dr Cheddi Jagan. Regrettably, Burnham used his brilliance in pathological ways to rig national elections; establish a militarized dictatorship; institutionalize racism by marginalizing Indians and minimizing their rights every way, and nurturing all the pathologies that today characterize Guyana, including ethnic polarization. Cheddi, on the other hand became too ideologically rigid and was caught in a straitjacket of his own making that made it impossible for him to exhibit real politics in the early years of his political career. Sadly he did not live long enough to concretize needed transformations after the return of fair and free elections.

Secondly, there is a distinct and tangible difference between reality and perception. Building a superstructure on perceptions and labelling the trees as the forest to argue marginalization of African Guyanese translates into Africans still unable to come to grips with the reality that their party is not in power any more. Indians, on the other hand, have experienced the PNC in government so they don’t have to reject that party based on perceptions; rather their rejection is based on irrefutable historical reality and experiences that suffuse their collective consciousness.

Thirdly, to understand how ethnicity is embedded in Guyana’s politics, one only has to look at the Stabroek News blogs, which are underpinned by one characteristic only ‒ us versus them. And the logic goes like this: for an Indian not to be racist, not only must he not support the PPP but he must also be totally critical of the PPP and wholly supportive of positions taken by APNU. Otherwise any Indian who dares to talk about the plight of Indians is fronting and being devious. One only has to look at the mountainous tumult that descends any time an Indian postulates a position deemed Indo-centric. This is precisely the reason why Indians fear the PNC to such an extent that they cling to the PPP in significant numbers. They know that come what may, they will be less repressed and oppressed and the possibilities of material and social advancement for all Guyanese are greater with the PPP than with the PNC. A pre-1992 history of more than 28 years of PNC ‘rule’ is a potent and perennial guide.

Fourthly, instead of a PNC apology for rigging elections, Guyanese have been fed denials and challenges to prove what is common global knowledge, based on mountainous documented evidence and massive personal disenfranchisement experiences. In effect the PNC should apologize for taking away the citizenry’s right to vote and select a government of their choice. On the other hand, the PPP never rigged national elections, so for what must the PPP apologize? And if the PPP has to apologize otherwise, then shouldn’t the PNC start the ball rolling since they walked that path first? Perhaps TK, the PNC’s latest northern star, can use his new-found influence to guide the PNC towards its catharsis.

Then there is National Service. Indians can never forget this institution, especially the requirement for UG students to serve one year – a requirement that resulted in very few Indian females attending UG, especially after those who attended National Service were subjected to a pattern of sexual abuse and cultural degradation.

Now Mr Abu Bakr states, “…while the social degradation of suicide/alcoholism/domestic violence is part of the Indian condition in our country, for nothing in the world will they change that for a suicide-free world under the PNC.” Really? Mr Bakr cannot be more intellectually dishonest and disingenuous since he fully well knows that this condition of Indians has its genesis under the PNC government and there is nothing either in the PNC track record, arsenal or rhetoric that positions the PNC to transform Guyana into a “a suicide-free world.”

Finally, Indians generally have not displayed a pattern of berating Africans for supporting the PNC and Africans usually are not taken to task for doing so.  So it would seem that those who criticise Indians, think that we are either stupid or naïve or both. Perhaps that is why Indians have been told that we cannot interpret the experiences of Afro-Guyanese or tell them what perceptions they must manifest. Yet Afro-Guyanese are convinced that they have the right to interpret the experiences of Indians and tell us what perceptions we must manifest.

In effect Afro-Guyanese activists not only demand (rightly so) the right to define and express their own reality but also the Indian reality, which must then be accepted by Indians. And Indian activists, who seek for Indians, that which Africans are asking for their fellow Africans, are racist for doing so and/or are practising intellectual chicanery.

It would seem therefore that TK now typifies just the kind of Indian Guyanese that African Guyanese seek to design.


Yours faithfully,
Annan Boodram

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