A recent exchange of six letters took place between Tacuma Ogunsaye and Clairmonte Lye, contributed to by Manzoor Nadir, in SN between the June 22 and July 2 triggered by Mr Ogunseye’s claim that Dr Roger Luncheon allegedly withdrew an offer made by Dr Cheddi Jagan to Professor Clive Thomas to be the Minister of Finance. Much of what is below is already well known and some of it has been in the public domain.
Prior to the elections of 1992 discussions on a joint slate for the elections took place between members of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) of which the WPA, PPP and DLM, and others, were members. Agreement could not be reached on the composition of the list of candidates and post-election allocation of seats in the National Assembly. In addition the WPA and forces outside the PCD, insisted that Dr Jagan should not be the presidential candidate. It was alleged that he would not receive the support of African-Guyanese. Dr Jagan’s offer of Dr Roger Luncheon as the PPP’s presidential candidate was rejected.
The PPP concluded that these groups essentially wanted the PPP to concede the presidency, which it was not prepared to do. To prevent a complete break-up of the PCD, Dr Jagan then offered Professor Clive Thomas the position of Prime Minister in a PPP government. This was rejected by the WPA for the same reason, namely, that Dr Jagan should not be the presidential candidate. As Manzoor Nadir indicated quite correctly in his letter, Dr Jagan was prepared to offer vice-presidencies to Professor Thomas and Paul Tennassee, the DLM Leader.
After the elections, still in a search for unity with the WPA, Dr Jagan invited Professor Thomas to be his Minister of Finance. The WPA declined the offer on the ground that protocol dictated that Dr Jagan must make the offer to the WPA, which would nominate the person. The WPA had other economists who it could have offered up, but Dr Jagan had long recognized that Professor Thomas had vision similar to his for the economic development of Guyana. Not being certain whether Professor Thomas would have been the nominee, Dr Jagan did not pursue the matter.
These events were all fully reported to and discussed at the PPP’s executive committee at the time and members from that period who are still in the executive committee, some of whom participated in those meetings, are aware of these facts. For some unknown reason, they are reticent in coming forward.
Dr Luncheon may well have indicated that the offer to Professor Thomas was off the table. But he would have done so after the WPA had indicated its position and Dr Jagan had decided not to pursue the matter. Having regard to all of these facts, it could well be that Mr Ogunseye was complaining about Dr Luncheon’s withdrawal of the offer before formally responding to the WPA’s position. While it is for Mr Ogunseye to clarify, as a seasoned politician, he must know that no response is a response, in this case a negative one.
The above shows that the PPP made every effort at that time to engage with the WPA and to encourage its participation, first in a pre-election coalition through the PCD, through its offer to Professor Thomas of the prime ministership and after the elections, through its offer of the finance portfolio to Professor Thomas. All of this reflected the collaborative relationship and the comradely sentiments that existed between the PPP and the WPA throughout the period, despite tensions brought on by political competition.
It could well be argued that the PPP, being in government, had the major responsibility to nurture the relationship with the WPA and failed to do so. But after the breakdown of the discussions with the PCD, the WPA’s rejection of the offer of the prime ministership to Professor Thomas, the PPP had nowhere else to turn other than to GUARD and CIVIC for coalition partners, which was vital for the PPP, having regard to political conditions at the time.
Therefore it is wholly inaccurate to say that in the early 1990s it was the PPP that was responsible for the failure to achieve unity between the WPA and the PPP. This narrative, or attempt to so interpret events of the 1990s, is not new.
Less concentration by some WPA supporters on its angelic disposition, of being hard done by, on grandiose claims of uniting the races and single-handedly leading the struggle against the PNC, and of the PPP’s perfidy at that time, would allow the significant collaboration between the two parties in the 1970s in labour struggles, against the referendum, in political campaigns and their joint contribution to the restoration of democracy to be revealed and to be better understood and acknowledged.
To be fair to Mr Ogunseye, he did not make the assertions that elicited this retort. His comments were limited to Dr Luncheon’s withdrawal of Dr Jagan’s offer to Professor Thomas. But without context, the assertion, which I have no reason to doubt, casts a negative patina over the relationship between the WPA and the PPP in the early 1990s, which needs to be corrected and placed in perspective.