The David Granger visit to Richmond Hill, Queens, a few weeks ago, in what was once considered a PPP overseas stamping ground, probably was a first for Guyana’s main opposition party, but may also have inflicted the first crack in Guyana’s racial curse or made racial tensions worse, depending on who you believe in the various letters and comments to date on the visit.
My take is that it took a lot of courage for Mr Granger to visit the community, but even greater courage for Mr Mike Persaud to graciously host Mr Granger and his team in the PPP’s so-called stamping ground. According to published letters, some issues raised and addressed seemed straightforward in resonating with all and sundry, but the chief sticking point seems to revolve around whether the PNC should apologize for what it did during its tenure in office.
As a Guyanese, I do think the PNC owes Guyana an apology. A blanket apology would suffice after being out of office for 22 years. In fact, if memory serves me well, I believe former President and PNC Leader, Desmond Hoyte, as he moved the PNC away from the ideological path pursued by his predecessor, admitted ‘mistakes were made’ during the PNC era, without going into detail or even offering a direct apology.
In 2004, then PNC Leader Robert Corbin, reportedly suggested the idea of setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a bid to give closure to those who were still aggrieved about the country’s past. Former Health Minister and son-in-law of the late Forbes Burnham, Richard Van West Charles, who was open to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said it would be dependent on how it was structured, but started a spirited discussion when he suggested, “There should be apology for past wrongs…” (SN, May 24, 2009). Even the PPP-controlled Guyana Chronicle chipped in with a piece titled, “A PNCR apology will help remove suspicion,” (June 2, 2009).
Former PNC Vice-Chairman Vincent Alexander, in that same Van West Charles news item, reportedly also believed there is need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission involving the participation of all stakeholders, to settle any outstanding questions, but added, “All parties–the PNCR and the PPP in particular–have to bear some responsibility for what happened to Guyana.” He further reportedly suggested that all parties should atone for their past wrongs. “We’ve all got to bare our souls and in that process somebody might be [guiltier] than the other–if that is the case–but it is not the case where there are the innocent and the guilty.”
Shortly after he was expelled from the PNC, current Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green, described the PNC’s past alleged acts of violence as “political warfare” of that era, without clearly offering any direct involvement or apology.
So, in a nutshell, the PNC has been discussing, defending, explaining and perhaps debating, the issue of an apology or something akin to a reconciliation with offended Guyanese about its past. But has anyone at the executive level from the PNC ever suggested the PPP needs to also apologize for what it has done and is doing to Guyana and Guyanese? I welcome examples of past or current senior PNC (or even PPP) executives who suggested the PPP needs to apologize just to show the calls are being balanced.
Having said earlier that I think the PNC owes Guyanese an apology, I now say that the PPP owes Guyanese an even bigger apology. Why? Because, whereas the PNC did not have a government run by Guyanese from which to learn past mistakes, the PPP had the PNC regime’s past mistakes from which to learn.
Instead, it came to office on a platform filled with promises of ‘lean and clean’ government or to do better than the PNC, but after Cheddi Jagan died in 1997, it was as if all hell broke loose in the party, resulting in the PPP losing its parliamentary majority in 2011, and causing the party to struggle to govern in a sea of lawlessness in and out of government.
What is most disappointing, though, is that instead of taking responsibility or even remedial action for its mistakes, the PPP resorts to defending the indefensible and blaming everybody but itself, which means an apology is not even in the works, even as the party is badly haemorrhaging support from its base.
In my opinion, there is enough blame to be shared between the PPP and PNC for mismanaging the government and country after the British left in 1966, and for the levels of ethnic violence and property destruction. Those Guyanese, who repeatedly voted race, also contributed to our country’s present quagmire, so there is no innocent party and no innocent race, for we are all guilty in some way, even if by our silence. Nevertheless, if political parties want to apologize, let it not be one, but as Mr Alexander proffered: let all atone!
Not that I am holding my breath for either PNC or PPP to apologize, because in 1985, the PPP and PNC entered into shared governance talks, and the main bone of contention, according to Mr Green, was that Mrs Janet Jagan wanted the PPP to be the senior partner in such an arrangement because it commanded greater numerical support among Indian Guyanese than the PNC had among Blacks.
If the two parties were going enter into shared governance without apologizing to each other or the nation, the nation could have encountered eventual chaos because the foundation of trust on which a unity government needs to rest has to start with apologies to each other and the nation.