I concentrate on the African community so it can develop progressive politics based on power-sharing

Dear Editor,

I read with both amusement and varying degrees of contempt a response to a letter written by former President, Donald Ramotar, published under the caption, ‘Chronicle halt on Hinds and Lewis’ columns was inevitable’.  In his missive Mr Ramotar sought to lecture David Hinds and me on the political practice of Walter Rodney, democracy, race, and dictatorship.

As a practitioner of politics it would be remiss of me to take the position that I am beyond criticism. Similarly, it would be foolhardy of me to believe that every position I have taken in my more than four decades in the political struggle of the country, has been flawless and that I am beyond being taught anything politically by my peers. To assume those kinds of postures will be misplaced arrogance of the highest order, on my part. Throughout my political life I have been guided by and have adhered to the principles of criticism and self-criticism. While I do not seek to set standards for other political people to follow, I would expect that persons like Donald Ramotar, who seek to admonish me, will at the least, bring to the debate, political and moral credentials consistent with their criticisms. On this score, I submit here that Mr Ramotar does not and cannot lay claim to possessing, either or both of these requisite credentials.

For 23 years this gentleman and his comrades in the PPPC, including former President and now Secretary General of the Party and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Bharrat Jagdeo, misruled the country. During their tenure, Guyana experienced the rise of the criminal state, and the decimation of the working class. Workers found themselves in the worst condition ever in the modern history of this nation and because of the PPP’s undermining of the industrial relations process, were unable to defend their interests. Race relations were deliberately manipulated to the advantage of the new barons in the PPPC and the nation saw the unprecedented transfer of wealth from the state to segments within the group from which the PPP derived its support.

Mr Ramotar has been in the centre of power in Guyana for the duration of the PPP’s 23 years in government. Like all the other leaders of his party who occupied the seats of power during that time, neither he nor his party did anything to significantly advance the fortunes of the other race groups in Guyana, in spite of how much they have pretended to have done so. They failed and in fact, did not attempt to transform Guyana into a united progressive nation with an increasing working class that was better organized to defend its interests. For a party which prided on calling itself the vanguard of the working class, its leaders left the working class in a worse state than when it took office in 1992.

It is not surprising that Mr Ramotar deemed me a racist. This is not the first time he has done so. He claimed in his letter that my concerns are only with African interests. Even if his statement is true what is wrong with me assuming that posture? He and others in the PPP leadership are aware that his utterance is nothing more than a statement of convenience that is intended to deceive readers. My political history speaks volumes for itself. It can stand up honourably, to any objective assessment. The same cannot be said for many of my detractors inside and outside of the PPPC. I say without fear of contradiction that if Guyanese had practised the racism that I have been accused of practising, Guyana would have been a much better country today.

Let me at this point, Editor, digress for a moment to show the extent to which both sides of the political divide in Guyana treat with well-intended and meaningful criticisms. As I pen this letter I am informed by a trusted comrade, that today, (March 27, 2018) on a CN Sharma Channel 6 TV show, a supporter of the PNCR said that David Hinds and I have been offered big jobs in a post 2020 elections PPP government. The word that is being bandied around is that David would be the Prime Minister and I would be propelled into a senior ministerial positon. This nonsensical position is seen by the PNCR supporter as “our” justification for attacking the APNU+AFC coalition government. I am not sure to what extent this line has the sanctioning of the leadership of the PNCR, but if it does, it just shows the depths to which people will sink to in order to discredit criticisms that are intended to advance the interests of the coalition government and those of the people, in a politically negative climate. It is amazing to note that David Hinds and me, who have both been accused and dismissed by the PPPC as being nothing but black racists, are now being accused by at least one member of the major party in the APNU coalition, which we (along with Clive Thomas, Desmond Trotman and Rupert Roopnaraine, among others) struggled against tremendous odds to make reality, of undermining the APNU+AFC coalition government because we dared to criticise some of the decisions of the coalition.

I recall in the run-up to the historic 1992 general and regional elections with the arrival of Mr Ravi Dev and his ROAR party, Dev introduced the doctrine that Africans cannot speak for Indians and that the WPA was promoting political deception by making the claim that it is a multi-racial party. When this new doctrine was announced and propagated none of the leaders in the PPP, including the Jagans, condemned Dev’s position. Why did they refuse to do so?

Their refusal to do so was as a result of their deliberate political opportunism. They wanted to benefit politically from the racial polarisation that they knew the Dev doctrine will enhance in the racially divided country. The 1992 elections resulted in victory for the PPPC and demonstrated that the Dev doctrine worked to the advantage of that party.  In those elections, the Guyanese electorate including the working class/working people returned to their old race based parties rejecting WPA’s appeal for a multiracial vote. In doing so the working class of both races objectively had decided to postpone their collective liberation to a later date. After the 1992 experience, I concluded that the Indian community including the Marxists ideologues in and out of the PPPC bought into Dev’s position that only Indians can speak for Indians. I felt that I was duty bound to respect this position of that community and its leadership.

With this in mind I felt the need to adjust my politics. In doing so I accepted the reality that united action of the working people for their self-emancipation will take place some time in the future. Subsequent elections have demonstrated the correctness of my observation. It was only in the 2011 and 2015 general and regional elections that we saw a glimpse of hope. In those two elections political boundaries were crossed which saw the eventual defeat of the PPPC in 2015 and the birth of the APNU+AFC coalition government. Unlike my detractors, I have publicly announced my new position of concentrating my political activism in the African community in order to help our community develop progressive politics based on power-sharing between the Indian and African community and their race-based parties, and the inclusion of the Amerindian community. If this is negative race politics I stand condemned.

I end by saying that I have no blood on my hands of any race or that of any worker. I wish at this time to give the nation the assurance, even if it is discomforting to some, that as in the past, I will continue to make the necessary tactical or strategic changes in my politics, which I believe will serve to advance this nation’s interests. Even with my limited intellect that former President Donald Ramotar so correctly alluded to in his letter, I am prepared to give this public assurance. I wonder, if he with his brilliant mind, is prepared to not only publicly, but privately also to eschew race politics.

Yours faithfully,

Tacuma Ogunseye

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