The distance between old friends
June 13, 2004
HISTORY works in mysterious ways. I recall the time when the PPP and the WPA were united in their opposition to the PNC dictatorship. I recall the days when the two walked hand in hand as brothers and sisters in struggle.
In that struggle the WPA paid the higher price, losing activists to state sponsored death squads. Then on June 13, 1980, the WPA paid the supreme sacrifice: the murder of its co-leader Walter Rodney at the hands of a PNC agent.
Today the PPP is in power. The foundation for the PPP’s removal of the PNC from office in 1992 was paid for in great measure by the sweat, blood and tears of the WPA.
Today when I see some of the people that occupy positions of power and influence in government, I have to ask where some of them were when the body blows were being absorbed by the true freedom fighters of Guyana.
Mrs. Janet Jagan, a leader within the PPP and a former President of Guyana, has done a lot of walking in her life. In 1948 she walked from Georgetown to Enmore in the funeral procession for the sugar workers gunned down by colonial police. Then in 1980, she walked from Buxton to the Georgetown in the funeral procession of Rodney.
Since 1992, her party has however been putting space between itself and its former allies in the struggle against the PNC.
I wonder how she feels today to see the distance that has come between her party and the once formidable WPA who paid the price for the rewards that her party is presently enjoying. I wonder how she feels that not one of the great WPA freedom fighters of those days is part of any inclusive process within her administration.
In fact, the PPP by its actions hardly considers the WPA worthy of being part of any constructive engagement process. I wonder how Mrs. Jagan feels today when she sees courageous figures like Tacuma Ogunseye speaking on platforms with the “former enemy” and being highly critical of the PPP government.
I wonder how she feels when persons like Dr. David Hinds and Dr. Rupert Roopnarine have to seek employment outside of Guyana. I wonder how she feels when she sees Bharrat Jagdeo being very comfortable with some of the persons who helped to cover up the death of Dr. Walter Rodney.
History moves in mysterious ways. There used to be a time when the PPP and WPA seemed inseparable. Today, the WPA is marching with the PNCR and individuals like Dr. Clive Thomas who was once part of the coalition of forces that protested against the devastating economic policies of the PNC, can claim that the PPP is following the economic polices of the former PNC administration.
Yes, the same Thomas who shared so many platforms with PPP leaders! Today he appears on the PNC platform. History has come full circle.
What explanation can be had for former allies moving so far apart in so short a time? One explanation has to be the hogging of power by the hawks within the PPP. And while blame must also reside with the WPA, surely it was the PPP which was required to show more magnanimity and generosity to its former allies.
The late Tim Hector saw the failure of the PPP to unite with the WPA as one the greatest misdeeds of Dr. Cheddi Jagan. In a tribute to the late president he wrote, “But there was one great failure. Jagan failed to unite the PPP with Walter Rodney’s WPA.
He missed the only opportunity since 1964 to re-unite the races, Indian and African, after the CIA induced tumult of race rioting in 1963-64. In consequence his party, the PPP, did not renew itself, after its entire front ranks had deserted to Burnham in the years of vileness.
To be fair, my friends, colleagues, brothers and sisters in the WPA no doubt made differences into irreconcilables. An historic opportunity was missed. Ah! The pity of it.”
The PNCR is no reformed party. The PNC has never admitted to its complicity in the murder of Rodney. It has failed to publicly admit to the rigging of elections and all the other terrible things it did while in office.
So it cannot be that the WPA has buried the hatchet and seen the PNCR in better light.
The son of Walter Rodney had to go on a fast outside of the Ministry of Legal Affairs to force the PPP to take action to have the killer of his father brought back to face trial.
That process is not going anywhere because the bosses of Gregory Smith knew what they were doing when they sent him to French Guiana. Smith who was tracked down with the help of the Sandanista government in Nicaragua cannot be deported to Guyana so long as the death penalty is still on our books.
It was even rumored that Smith, the man who reportedly gave Rodney the device which subsequently exploded, has himself passed to the great beyond, escaping the clutches of justice for his murderous participation in the death of Walter Rodney.
The file is not yet closed on the life of this great son of Guyana, Dr. Walter Rodney. There is still an opportunity for those within the PNC and the army who know about the circumstances of Rodney’s and his associates deaths, who know about the death squads that the PNC put together to destroy the WPA, to come forward and say what they know.
At this time when we are seeking to get to the truth about phantom killings in the present era, let us spare a thought for the numerous victims of state sponsored death squads which took the lives of political opponents of the PNC government.
Let us recall the death squad bosses who ordered the death of the most brilliant mind ever to emerge from the region.
Let us recall today the contribution of Dr. Walter Rodney to the freedoms we now enjoy and in so doing let is examine the distance that has come between former friends.