Eyes wide shut
Freddie Kissoon column
December 14, 2006
In times like these, when ethnicity is being used as an endgame on the chessboard of power, one conjures up visions of the fantastic role of the multi-racial pervasiveness of the WPA. One better example of this display of non-racist fraternity was the Arnold Rampersaud trial. Had there not been a Working People's Alliance, Arnold Rampersaud would have been hanged in the Camp Street jail by the State of Guyana.
The trial was an insidious invention by Burnham to consolidate an ebbing wave of racial support. The strategy was clear and well thought out. An African policeman was shot by PPP supporters, therefore an Indian accused had to pay for the crime. Burnham had the wrong man, but he had to play the race card, because his game had come to an end and the Rampersaud trial was the last throw of the dice. Walter Rodney, outside the court, was more effective than the lawyers inside.
Rodney's essential point about the racist State was driven home hard to the jury. He told them that an African leader, without any respect and love for his people, was using African Guyanese to hang an innocent Indian man, and that was testimony to treating the African consciousness with contempt. Rodney went to WPA meetings from Georgetown to Linden, and wherever African Guyanese were located, to preach a message of African dehumanisation. He told African Guyanese to wash their hands of the Arnold Rampersaud trial.
They did. Rampersaud was set free, and is a citizen of Canada. Rampersaud was a very simple Berbician taxi-driver who didn't go to higher levels in the education system, and therefore was not capable of articulating the finer points of political discourse. But one of these days, if he is still a PPP member, he ought to castigate the current PPP leadership for the disdainful way in which they treated the WPA. It was one of the most tragic mistakes in any multi-racial society. And Guyana is feeling the horrific consequence of this.
It is certainly, to my mind, perhaps the second worst political error in judgement in Guyanese history, and this opinion here takes in the colonial administrations in the 19 th Century to this moment in time. The worst political error in judgement in Guyanese history is the political directive to kill Rodney. It is 14 years since the PPP has been in power; and in that period, one has seen the complete shut-out of the people who fought alongside the PPP in the darkest period of Guyanese history from even the most infinitesimal space of influence and power. The PPP has washed away the existence of their anti-dictatorship friends the way the laundry worker takes out a lip print on a shirt.
One must always understand the psychic hurt the WPA leadership felt at being locked out. My theoretical contention about Guyanese politics is that both the Burnham and Hoyte Administrations were felled because of the seminal role played by the WPA in the strategic area of Demerara, and among Afro-Guyanese communities in the entire territory. My point goes further. I am contending that if there weren't a WPA, there would not have been a free election in 1992. I am convinced that the WPA has been psychically traumatised by the PPP's betrayal, but also by the betrayal of the Indian people of Guyana. This is a complex argument, and there are merits on both sides. For the Indian people, why should they pressure the PPP into recognition of the WPA and for an accommodation of the WPA, when Africans themselves are PNC voters and not WPA voters? There is a point here. There is this paranoia that Indian people have, that a weakening of the PPP opens up the door of power for the PNC to pass through; and any party will be given a try, but not the PNC.
But the Indian people are possessed of a deep psychological deception, which cannot be dealt with here, and may be the subject of another article. The Indian people of this country must realize that the electoral choice and attached freedoms that came from October 1992 were not due to the PPP alone. Here is where I return to my theory. The PPP could not have delivered the coup de gracÚ. The PPP and GAWU did give Burnham decades of mind-blowing headaches, but they could not have touched the PNC's Achilles' heel. That area was the African community. Burnham's murder of Rodney was a deus ex machina. He knew the system was falling, because he had lost ethnic support, and in Guyanese politics, ethnic support means party survival. By the time Hoyte and the ERP were in full swing, the PNC had lost valuable national support, because the pro-democracy forces had been widened.
Indian people, then, cannot, and should not, see the PPP as their only godfather, because there have been others, too. An issue complicating the PPP-Indian community relationship is the clouded period in the middle Eighties, when a PNC/PPP Joint Government was being negotiated, with Clement Rohee as one of the PPP's principal emissaries to the talks. Mr. Rohee should be pressed into a discussion of this secret moment in Guyanese political history.
The iconoclastic theory of Baytoram Ramharack, which questions Jagan's Indian loyalties, may well have a hidden theoretical support here, just waiting to be explored by Ramharack and others (see Ramharack's book on Balram Singh Rai). It would be interesting to hear what people like David Dabydeen and Rickey Singh think of Ramharack's theory of that moment in 1985. Many WPA cadres who once fought with the PPP rose up and spoke to ensure the freedom of Indian people after the crime spree in 2002. But the Indian people showed no gratitude. The only vocal African voice of anger and denunciation against the tremendous violence that was committed against Indian people after the jail break in February 2002 has been the WPA's David Hinds, leading the chorus. Indian people must ask themselves where were the other African voices.
Some of these people risked their lives for this committed position. David Hinds got abused for the moral stand he took in relation to the cruelties perpetuated by Buxton. A lot of Buxtonians may be annoyed with Kwayana for speaking out. The crimes have restarted, and Indian victims are falling like mangoes. Surely the East Indian people of Guyana, with eyes wide open, should see how hopeless the PPP is. Or, maybe, Indian people have lived all the time in this country with their eyes wide shut.