I found Dr. Mark Devonish’s letter (SN June 29th) interesting for two reasons: Putting down one candidate (Charles Ramson) and promoting another (Vindhya Persaud). It also invites me to promote my own idea of who should be the candidate at this pivotal juncture in the life of the PPP and the racially-divided society we call Guyana.
I observed Dr. Vindhya Persaud at an event in Richmond Hill, Queens, New York, two years ago. Vindhya is everything this writer says about her – compassionate, caring, very thoughtful, self-confident. She found time to greet and chat with everyone. While the guests were scampering off for food, Vindhya’s only interest was chatting-up and bonding with the folks who surrounded her. She is also a very good speaker and knowledgeable on the issues. A leader has to be compassionate and tough – the ability to make tough decisions. I think she embodies both essential components of leadership. She would make a very good candidate.
The biggest problem of the PPP is that it is perceived as an Indian-ethnic party. Ethnic politics is a drag on the party, keeps the party tied to the past, preventing it from embracing the future. From the 1960’s right down to today, PPP had always been blessed with attracting several good African-Guyanese to their fold – Cedric Nunes, Ashton Chase, Brindley Benn, E.M.G. Wilson (1960’s) and recently Roger Luncheon and Sam Hinds – but they have all been sidelined – never given consideration for the top leadership position. Considering the need to attack and destroy this Indian-ethnic label the party has been tagged with, it makes good commonsense to “elect” one of these very qualified, loyal, and dedicated African-Guyanese members to be the next leader. Robeson Benn and Sam Hinds can do for the party what no Indian stalwart leader can do at this critical juncture in the life of the party and this divided nation. The problem in Guyana today: Indians are marginalized more than at any other time in the nation’s modern history. And, any attempt to address the issue quickly degenerates into a racial fight. An Indian leader speaking up for this cause is quickly dismissed. An African-Guyanese leader like Robeson Benn or Sam Hinds can change the dynamic of this contentious issue.
A genuine multi-racial image for the PPP can win African support for the party. Indians are no longer the majority in Guyana. The PPP cannot win an election on Indian votes alone. They need broad-based multi-racial support. To the PPP, I say: Be wise. Choose a leader that augurs well for the future transformation of the party as well as the whole Guyanese society.
One thing the party must not do: Choose an Indian to be presidential candidate and an African as window-dresser Prime Ministerial candidate. And, with the stipulation that the latter cannot ever succeed to the presidency in the event of a vacancy to the top position. This is the worst kind of hypocrisy a political party can commit, especially in a multiracial society like Guyana’s. If the African-Guyanese is good enough to serve as Prime Minister, he is also good enough to serve as president under the PPP’s franchise. Alternatively, the PPP may continue to embrace the old style ethnic politics and ignore the changing demography of the society. Such politics will surely take the party to its grave.