Guyana is a multi-racial society, but mostly bi-racial. The voting culture over the last 60 years has been to vote strictly race. The rate of cross-racial voting is very low, perhaps no more than five percent. Such low rates of cross-racial voting have caused many observers to say that “you cannot have democracy in Guyana where every last man votes race”.
This quote from 1991 had been attributed to Western Ambassadors in Georgetown. So it is very important to promote cross-racial voting, if only to change the perception that Guyana is a flawed democracy. This is what inspired me to call on both PPP and PNC to do some serious work on making it possible for PPP and PNC to be perceived as genuine non-racial parties. Starting in 1997, I had specifically called on both PPP and PNC to “elect” from among their members, an African- and an Indian-Guyanese, respectively, to lead their parties. Twice, in 1997 and 2010, I visited PNC Headquarters where I pitched this message. This reform idea would have created a new dynamic that would have rid the nation of such an excessively high rate of racial voting that is the bane of Guyana.
Does Elisabeth Harper’s selection as Prime Ministerial candidate contain the promise of cross-racial voting? Is she a well-known celebrity figure, say like Oprah Winfrey, who can potentially move 5-10 percent of African voters across the racial divide of Guyanese society? Elisabeth Harper is not a member of the PPP which she will be required to represent. She is reported in the press as a member of something called the Civic appendage of the PPP, as in PPP/Civic. This question needs to be addressed.
This concept of the Civic came about in the months preceding the 1992 election. A handful of people had distinguished themselves by demonstrating courage and did much hard-work to throw out the then government. Two of those persons were Dale Bisnauth and Sam Hinds. The then leader, Cheddi Jagan created Civic to sort of make room for those individuals, without requiring them to join the party. They were later rewarded with Ministerial positions, and Sam Hinds, because of his ethnicity, was made Prime Minister, so as to present a multi-racial image for a PPP, that is otherwise perceived as Indo-ethnic. The record will show that the PPP over the years had done some egregious acts to set back the cause of race relations: – Sam Hinds as PM could not succeed to the presidency, no matter how many times the vacancy came up. The party studiously and deliberately would select an Indian as their Presidential candidate, and on one occasion subverted the constitution, requiring PM Sam Hinds to be sworn in as president for only a few hours, then have him resign to allow an Indian to be sworn-in as president – all just to fulfill the requirements of the constitution. That is the extent to which the ruling PPP had gone to let all Guyanese know that it is really an Indo-ethnic party.
The appendage of the PPP called Civic does not exist. It was an ad hoc concept to facilitate the exigencies of 1991-92. PPP has sought to institutionalize the concept, only to use it to give credence – albeit falsely – that the PM candidate belongs to Civic, and their party constitution says, a Civic candidate cannot ever succeed to the presidency. It is plainly shameful to what extent the PPP will go to manipulate and insult the African-Guyanese population.
Civic does not exist, period. Does it have a known societal or political function? Do they meet to have annual dinners – just as a formality to show that it exists? Can we demand some pictures to prove that at the last dinner, Elisabeth Harper was inducted into the Civic?
I have a challenge for the PPP. Make Elisabeth Harper a member of the PPP, grant her full membership rights so that she is eligible to accede to the presidency in the event the office becomes vacant. This idea will not only bring credibility to the PPP but will go a far way to win trust and confidence from the African population. Now that’s a real challenge. No downside and so much to gain.
I urge the PPP to make a serious stab at changing the racial politics of the land. If an African-Guyanese is deemed good enough to represent your party as PM, he or she must be good enough also to be president.
I believe Elisabeth Harper’s selection is just for show, never intended as a serious measure to win African votes. Just as Sam Hinds was used as a show for all of the 23 years he occupied the position of Prime Minister. It will not win any measureable percentage of the African vote.
PPP’s real campaign strategy (whose bloc of votes it wants to win) is enunciated in the Coded Language delivered by party secretary, Clement Rohee. He says AFC signed its death warrant when it formed an alliance with PNC/APNU. What did Rohee really mean? Do the Guyanese people need to bring in experts to decipher Rohee’s coded language? The coded language of Rohee is spelled out by hired PPP bloggers in hundreds of blog posts every day in SN blogs and Facebook and on other websites. They accuse AFC leaders (Indians) of “selling out” – they betrayed their race. This is the most damnable concept any serious nationalist party can advocate as a serious election strategy- and all done in a largely bi-racial society like Guyana’s. They have test-marketed this strategy; they know it works. Their hope is to win back the Indian votes they lost at the last election by driving fear of Africans in Indian villages.
The concept of what democracy means in a multi-racial society is lost completely on the current leadership of the PPP.