In his message on the passing of Nelson Mandela, Guyana’s Presi-dent Donald Ramotar noted of the great man that:
“…it was not only the struggle, but the manner in which it was conducted which will always remain an example and an inspiration for others working for social and economic justice everywhere.”
I hope the PPP government recognises the irony in this. Mr Ramotar and his colleagues are the antithesis of everything that Nelson Mandela fought for, most notably with regard to social and economic justice.
We have had the blatant distribution of the largesse of state funds to Queens Atlantic and other businesses close to the PPP even as public servants are protesting for a decent living wage. Billions of dollars are siphoned from public accounts to a handful of people, while mothers are dying at the Georgetown Public Hospi-tal for lack of proper healthcare systems and facilities.
Following the injury and killing of Lindeners protesting economic targeting in a compound in their community, a pittance was paid out in compensation barely equivalent to the remuneration of the super-salaried and incompetent apparatchiks that Freedom House has infested the public service with.
On the same day that Mr Mandela passed away, and the same day Mr Ramotar issued his statement, an article appeared in the New York Times on government’s insidious de facto censorship of calypso, written by Girish Gupta, particularly on the banning of the winning and other finalist calypsos in this year’s national competition. We have Mr Ramotar, his Minister of Culture, Dr Frank Anthony, and NCN CEO Michael Gordon seeking to deflect the issue while Robeson Benn was represented as follows:
“In a recent interview in the capital, Georgetown, Mr. Benn described Mr. Charles’s song and others like it as ‘slanderous, vulgar and naked political assaults.’ He admitted storming into the station to complain, but denied that he had instructed the country’s state-run National Communications Network, or NCN, to ban any songs. (Though he did say that some “shouldn’t be played.)”
As unlearned as the PPP is, and completely blind to the irony of its transgressions, no one in the party is going to see the parallels between the government’s censorship of calypso and the apartheid era censorship of musicians in South Africa.
All that said, the most damning irony of Mr Ramotar’s pronouncement on Mandela is the fact that the PPP itself is based on a sort of concept of ethnic hegemony. As was brought out in evidence in the Freddie Kissoon libel case, the party under the leadership of Mr Ramotar himself has been blatantly engaged in a policy of ethnic domination of the state policy-making apparatus, from state boards to ambassadorial posts.
When Parvati Persaud-Edwards wrote that disgustingly racist editorial in the state-owned Guyana, a piece of writing roundly condemned, not a single person from the PPP ‒ including the otherwise, if conveniently, outspoken Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand ‒ had the decency to likewise condemn it. The only person even tangentially related to the party to speak out was daughter of the late former minister Dale Bisnauth, Krysta Bisnauth who wrote that “the racist language of Ms Persaud-Edwards’ editorial sickened me.” (‘We cannot get off the ground if we hold on to old divisive ways of thinking and being’, SN July 12, 2012) Not only was Persaud allowed to continue work at the Chronicle without reprisal or censure, but the rhetoric in defence of her position was heightened in the paper’s manufactured letter pages. The use of the (state) media to spread the agenda of the political power in office is one of the many hurdles Mandela had to contend with.
We expect that it is good diplomatic form that the passing of a respected international political leader is met with condolences from our government, and we are aware that Mr Ramotar has had severe shortcomings in representing Guyana’s image abroad; that said, Nelson Mandela represented something far more than elder statesmanship.
Mandela was a great light of the world and I find it disgusting, to the point of sacrilege, for anyone in the present PPP to purport to even understand what he fought for, certainly not Mr Ramotar, or anyone in his cabinet. The PPP’s right to say anything about Mandela died with Cheddi Jagan, and while I do not expect anyone in the party to actually act like the great man, I would expect that they are going to spare us the blatant hypocrisy of claiming to identify with him.