The PNC will be observing in the month of October its 60th anniversary as a political party. According to PNC General Secretary Amna Ally, a number of activities are planned by the party in observance of that milestone.
I have no problem with the party having activities to observe its anniversary. The PNC after all is the second oldest surviving political party in Guyana. The PPP holds the record as the oldest and I may add, the largest political party in Guyana having been formed on January 1, 1950. The PNC was established seven years later following a split in the PPP in 1955 which saw between 1955 and 1957 two PPPs ‒ PPP (Jagan) and PPP (Burnham). Both political parties contested the 1957 elections and it was only after the elections which were decisively won by PPP (Jagan), that Burnham changed the name of his party to that of the Peoples’ National Congress. In the 1957 elections, the PPP (Jagan) won nine of the fourteen seats as opposed to PPP (Burnham) which only managed to win three seats, all in the city of Georgetown. The split regrettably has left permanent scars on the political landscape.
I thought of providing the above background in light of attempts that are being made to whitewash the role of Burnham and the PNC and simultaneously to discredit the PPP and Dr Jagan. Ms Ally said that Dr Jagan refused to hand over power in 1964 after losing the elections and it was only by an Order in Council from the Governor that he relinquished office.
What she failed to mention was the fact that the PPP in the elections of 1964 won the largest bloc of votes, 47% as opposed to the PNC which obtained 40% and the United Force which got 12%. The Governor, failed to call on Dr Jagan as the leader of the largest vote bloc, to form a coalition government. The reason for this was because of a deal that was engineered to remove the PPP from office by the British government under pressure from the United States mainly because of ideological considerations. The law was changed to allow for a new governance system based on proportional representation as opposed to the constituency system which was the norm in Britain and most other Commonwealth countries.
The other misleading statement made by Ms Ally was that the PNC-UF coalition government inherited a bankrupt economy from the PPP. It is the same line being peddled by the current APNU+AFC administration to justify its failure to deliver on its several Manifesto promises. In 1964, Guyana’s economy was among the strongest in the Anglophone Carib-bean. Its education and health system were substantially upgraded by the PPP administration. Several developmental projects were initiated, such as the establishment of the University of Guyana and the Bank of Guyana. New agricultural lands were opened up which boosted agricultural production, in particular rice which grew by an annual average of ten per cent per annum from 1957-1964. Sugar and bauxite grew by 7% and manufacturing by 8%.
The PNC when in power reversed several of the democratic and socio-economic gains made by the PPP government. The country was reduced to one of the poorest in the western hemisphere and was declared untrustworthy by the Inter-national Monetary Fund for failing to meet its debt obligations.
It was on October 5, 1992 that democracy was finally restored to Guyana after nearly three decades years of undemocratic rule. Ironically, it is the very date and month that the PNC has chosen to hold its anniversary celebrations.