A legacy of dictatorship politics

Dear Editor,

Ever since Cheddi Jagan died in 1997 many in the PPP, and recently in the PNC, have oftentimes alluded to the Jagan legacy without defining what that legacy is. I myself have given it some thought and just as I was concluding that it was the PPP, a friend in Canada made me realize that Jagan’s legacy was that of dictatorship politics.

Jagan became obsessed with communism in the mid 1940s and he organized the first communist organization to seek power in British Guiana. He advocated Soviet/Stalin style communism which was really naked dictatorship.

The PPP was set up along communist lines with the leadership steeped in dictatorship. This was starkly reflected in the rigging of the PPP 1962 Congress to deny Balram Singh Rai the chairmanship of the party and to deny Hindus any voice in the leadership. Unfortunately Jagan’s dictatorship politics were not confined to the PPP.

His student, Forbes Burnham who was a bit intellectually endowed and knew the British would not tolerate a communist government, had tried unsuccessfully to take over the PPP in 1955. Burnham would then form his own PNC which mirrored the PPP’s dictatorship style of leadership. It meant then that the uneducated masses of the two major racial groups were represented by party dictatorships. After the racial violence of the early 1960s, even the educated and wealthy Africans and Indians were forced to support the PNC and the PPP. The two dictatorships had effectively captured the two major racial groups en bloc.

The PNC came into power in coalition with the United Force at the end of 1964, but from 1968 ruled on its own until Oct 1992.

During the PNC era Jagan continued to advocate Soviet style dictatorship for Guyana which suited the personal ambitions of Forbes Burnham though he was too smart to actually implement it as Jagan wanted. Jagan’s official policy during the PNC dictatorship was “critical support.” Burnham’s dictatorship was not naked but dressed in socialist ideology and enshrined in the 1980 Constitution which Jagan embraced when he was returned to power in Oct 1992.

The PPP has been in continuous power for 22 years and it has not scrapped Burnham’s constitution.

Indeed the PPP has relied on it in its exercise of elected dictatorship especially since the 2011 elections when it lost parliamentary majority. Jagan introduced dictatorship politics in the mid 1940s and since Independence in 1966 we have been dominated by both PNC and PPP dictatorship politics compliments of Cheddi Jagan. That is his legacy.


Yours faithfully,
Malcolm Harripaul

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