May 3, 2000
Both sides are to blame for where we are
On March 14 I wrote a letter simply pointing out that the PPP were legitimately defeated in 1964 by a coalition government of the PNC and the United Force. Fact not fiction. I also pointed out that the traditional British constituency system of voting allowed the PPP to win the 1957 and 1961 election with a minority vote of under 43%. Fact, not fiction.
I further pointed out that the three political leaders, Cheddi Jagan, Forbes Burnham and Peter d'Aguiar collectively agreed, at the 1963 Constitutional Conference, to have the British government decide on the voting system to be employed in the 1964 elections prior to an agreed date for independence. Fact, not fiction. Dr. Jagan, I reported, subsequently reneged and protested. Widespread violence followed. Fact, not fiction.
Since that letter, Jairam Singh, Annan Boodram. Robert S. Drepaul, John DaSilva and R. Cummings, all with their own and well known political affiliations and biases, have written taking me to task, variously offering their own interpretations of the events but very little fact and seeking to exonerate the PPP and blame the PNC for everything.
They have, for instance, referred me to public CIA documents [please note: link provided by LOSP web site] and the "X-13 report" but no one has quoted from these as evidence that anything I have reported is not factual.
To the best of my knowledge, the CIA documents establish that the US and British governments decided that Dr Jagan's PPP was Communist, was a satellite of the Soviet Union, had every intention of taking an independent Guyana down the same road as Castro's Cuba and, therefore, were determined to prevent Guyana becoming independent under a PPP government.
The fact that the PPP could not command a majority vote and that a coalition opposed to the PPP which would include Peter d'Aguiar's capitalist U.F. could win the government in a legitimate election, certainly, was not lost on the Americans and the British. Simply put, the West had to choose between a predictable Jagan and a less predictable, but preferable Burnham and d'Aguiar.
The CIA documents reveal that financial and organisational assistance was made available from convenient US sources to both the PNC and UF. It is also, however, documented that the PPP was actively financed from the Soviet Union and other Communist front international organisations. None of this refutes, or contradicts anything which I have written.
Both sides, the PPP and PNC/UF, willingly accepted and lent themselves to the external blandishments and manoeuvring of the cold war superpowers. Both were targets and tools of the cold war. Fact, not fiction. None of it very relevant today.
What remains relevant is that both the PPP and the PNC were, and to this day are, dependent on ethnic votes for their base of power. Both the PPP and the PNC are culpable for the racial strife that tore our country apart between 1961 and 1964 and could again. Both were and remain political victims of our colonial heritage and neither, so far, have significantly striven to escape it. We don't need Arthur Schlesinger (Jr.) and the CIA revelations to tell us all this, but Boodram and company are prepared to apportion responsibility and blame only to one side.
I also seem to have offended V. Munroe (SN 00/04/07) by observing that the 1968 to 1985 elections did not reflect the popular will. He says "that means the Hoyte/Burnham administration had no legitimacy" and it is quite wrong of me to say that. What I said was that the PNC received "majorities that were wholly unrealistic, but neither is there evidence to show that the PPP would have won the government. Many were disillusioned and did not vote."
Frankly, I doubt if any election result since 1953, including 1992 and 1997, accurately reflected the popular will. Each has suffered from a combination of a flawed electoral system, deliberate manipulation or maladministration. It's why we are where we are today, a divided and troubled nation.
No matter what our political preference and loyalties are, I believe that all of us who hold or held public office or are public figures have an overriding responsibility to the national interest as we see it, more especially when we see it affecting the future, even if we see it from the advantage of hindsight.
Desmond Hoyte and Janet Jagan are equal signatories to the Herdmanston Accord. They share equal responsibility for both the spirit and letter of its observance and implementation. I believe they are equally accountable to the nation for the next election being held in a manner which ensures that the results are beyond reproach by either of the parties they lead. I am yet to be convinced that this is possible by January 2001. I also believe that, regardless of any political affiliation, we must escape the trap of elections decided by racial voting or face the inevitable consequence of living in a nation devoid of reason and destined for disintegration.
If the Boodrams, Da Silvas, Singhs etc. are sufficiently blind to interpret our history to make Cheddi Jagan all that was good, perfect and saintly and Forbes Burnham all that was bad and evil, so be it. It's why perhaps, in the year 2000, we are trapped in our past and have little hope for our future.
Enough. I rest my case.