Permanent state of fear
The Freddie Kissoon column
December 30, 2006
The call by FITUG (which includes GAWU, a PPP controlled union and NAACIE, an ally of GAWU) that the Government should begin to pay a decent wage to the poorer sections of the public sector must have been a surprise to many political observers. FITUG is a breakaway group from the TUC. Even if one argues that the unions involved in FITUG are frustrated with the TUC's reluctance to democratize its structure, how can FITIG put up with the sixth year of arbitrary imposition of wages and salaries by the Government. Are they willing to confront the Government on its continued intransigence? Will the PPP listen?
There seems be a particular psychic strand that runs through the mental make-up of the PPP leadership and that is the complete, committed willingness to say no to demands, no matter how reasonable and modest these demands are. The PPP seems to be driven by some mysterious psychic logic that makes it want to fight. It seems that confrontation and fighting are what they see as part of the social contract and therefore it is natural to say no, and let the fight begin.
When the heat gets too hot in the ring, there is a call for time out, and talks about resetting the rules are negotiated. The examples of this are too numerous to cite. But I will select an occasion when I thought that the PPP's approach to social generosity and governance were so heartless that if this state of mind continues, 2007 will be the year of the end.
There seems to be a theory among political pundits, social observers and academics that aspects of the PPP's rule are more unconscionable and devoid of humanist feelings than the Burnham's administration.
If research can bare this out then it is a terrible indictment of the PPP which has just entered its 15th year of power. Burnham ruled Guyana for twenty-one years. From 1964 to 1979, Burnham's control was not as yet insensitive and arrogant as it was in the early eighties when Burnham lost both his mental and political vision.
How do you explain so much coarseness in the PPP's attitude to social demands? It is possible that what we are seeing here is the same dissipation of mental and political spirituality that accompanied Burnham's rule in the eighties? If that is so, then it took Burnham about fifteen years to lose perspective. It took the PPP a much shorter time than that.
There are indeed many academics in Guyana and the Diaspora that genuinely believe that the political culture of the PNC and PPP are the same and that the fate would be the same.
Let me get back to that occasion I mentioned. It relates to the beginning of the life of the Berbice campus of UG in 1999. If there is one dimension of social life in this country that differentiates Forbes Burnham from the PPP in terms of Burnham's outlook on life, his perspective on politics, his attitude to the social contract, his approach to what he wanted in his goal-setting schemes, and his relationship with those whose purpose he used to further his dreams, then it is in the start up of the Berbice campus.
I am clear in my mind that the way and manner the PPP dealt with the original function of the Berbice campus makes Forbes Burnham look far more humanist than any leader in the current PPP administration. Had Burnham founded a university in Bartica or Linden, or any part of Guyana that he was fond of, Burnham would have put everything into it and made sure that it stood as a fine working example to both his manhood and his legacy.
The PPP's handling of the Berbice campus in 1999 was not only crude, insensitive and devoid of reality but downright heartless and anti-human. I am familiar with every detail in the disagreement between the university lecturers and the government because I was intimately involved in the lecturers' demands.
There was one point when the government remained unmoved in its rejection of what we wanted and while the debate was heating up, I looked through the window of the upper flat of the UG administration building, gazed at the tall trees blowing in the wind, and felt depressed.
My mind went back to my radical student days at UG and the solidarity so many UG lecturers gave the PPP. I simply felt lost as I stared out that window. What we were asking for I know both Burnham and Hoyte would have given. To my mind, it was the largest indication to me at that time that the PPP would fail this nation.
Through the UG administration, the government was offering those who were to go to Berbice to begin the life of the campus, the following – five hundred dollars an hour for teaching and four hundred dollars to buy lunch. You would be required to be at UG at around 5 am to be picked up by a minibus for the journey to Tain in Berbice. At one point in the lecturers' discussion, loud laughter erupted when someone said that even a “Chinee veggie” cost more than four hundred dollars.
When you contemplate the value of that campus to the PPP both politically and electorally, not to mention the image boost internationally for the government, to offer the lecturers money that the gutter cleaners would refuse, tells a tragic tale of a hardened, arrogant, uncaring government that has lost is way.
The campus never got off the ground in time for the new school term in that year because the lecturers refused to engage in self-humiliation. After an agreement was reached for duty-free cars, the opening of classes were furthered pushed back because the government had refused to issue the duty-free letters.
Why is it that you have to down tools and remonstrate with the government before it talks to you?
Even after the lecturers' refusal had come to an end, the government still saw the need to fight back by reneging on the duty-free concession it had offered.
In other words, this government is simply incapable politically or mentally of being nice and agreeing to your proposals. It always has to fight you down. Why does it want to do that? What political explanation could one offer for such a state of mind?
Intellectuals in the Arab world have a story they share with their colleagues worldwide. They say that the last people who want to see Palestinian statehood are the corrupt Arab dictators because once there is no Palestinian struggle the Arab people would turn their attention to them.
Could this be the key to understanding why the PPP invites a fight all the time? To keep the East Indians in a permanent state of fear